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CJ Coombs

The Rieger Hotel with the namesake on top offers a long line of family history and success in Kansas City

Rieger Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri.Elisa.rolle, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Rieger Hotel was constructed in 1915. It's located in Kansas City, Missouri at 20th and Main Street, and it is still operating. The hotel is in the Crossroads Art District, and in 2004, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A local entrepreneur, Alexander Rieger, is credited for having built the hotel but according to the Rieger website, the hotel was built by the founding family of J. Rieger & Co. Whiskey. In the beginning, it was frequented by businessmen who were traveling as well as railroad workers.

Word has it that Al Capone chose the Rieger for its easy access to Union Station and the trains that provided quick getaway. (Source.)

In 2003, the upper floors were converted into condominiums. Today, you can find The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange in the original hotel lobby. The hotel has three four-bedroom condos with equipped kitchens. Before prohibition, the Rieger family built a whiskey empire, which may be coming back. Located in the basement is the famous bar called Manifesto which opened in 2011.

The Rieger Hotel building

The architectural firm that designed the building was Smith, Rea, and Lovitt based in Kansas City. This firm was instrumental in designing several buildings in the city. Much of the integrity of the hotel has remained in good condition.

The building consists of three stories. It's constructed of reinforced concrete. The original storefront has been renovated. When the Reigel was operating in the early 1900s, it offered a convenient place for lodging. The hotel is one of the few that remained on the 1900 block of Main Street.

Originally, it was called Rieger Hotel. During the mid-1920s, it was known as the Traveler's Hotel. In 1927, E.E. Porter Soft Drinks operated an office in the building. It was vacant in 1941 but after World War II, it opened again as Milton Hotel. Acme Decal Company leased office space in the building and it was the only company that stayed after 1961. There was an exchange of hands and name changes through the years.

In 1962, the building was purchased by Orville Anderson, owner of Anderson Photography. He leased 22 rooms on the upper floors for hotel space to the Elms Hotel (this may not be associated with the Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri).

Anderson Photography moved into the basement and first floor in 1964. Generally, the hotel portion of the building was occupied by single travelers who needed to live closer to where they worked.

Alexander Rieger

One resource states Alexander Rieger was born in Czechoslovakia on January 7, 1870. He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1879 when he was 9 years old. In 1885, his family moved to Kansas City from Ohio. For a while, Alexander worked at G. Bemheimer Brothers Dry Goods as a stock boy. Later, he purchased a small grocery store.

Alexander Rieger was referred to as a civic leader and entrepreneur. In the early 1900s, for 36 years, he established himself to be a notable figure in the financial industry. He was the director of the Stockyards National Bank. In 1916, he began a long relationship with Merchants Bank. He founded the Home Trust Company in 1920 (which evolved into the Mercantile Bank) along with his son, Nathan. He was also chairman of the board at Mercantile Bank, president of Community State Bank, and a major stockholder in the National Bank of North Kansas City.

He is also recognized for his civic leadership within the Jewish community as a member of the board of the United Jewish Charities of Kansas City, the Jewish Orphans Horne and Menorah Hospital. (Source.)

In 1929, Alexander was appointed the Czechoslovakian Consul for Kansas and Missouri whose role helped with trade relations with the Midwest and Czechoslovakia.

Alexander died of a heart attack on July 1, 1936, at the age of 66. His wife, Flora, died on March 28, 1925, at age 47. They are both buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

J. Rieger & Co.

While some information indicates that Alexander Rieger was born in Czechoslovakia, information from the J.Rieger & Co. website states that in 1877, Jacob Rieger and his family immigrated to America from Goritz, Austria/Hungary. He came with his wife, Mary, and two children, Alexander and Sallie.

Jacob founded J. Rieger and Co. which was in the business of fine liquors. It was located across from the Livestock Exchange Building in the West Bottoms of Kansas City. Jacob turned over the business to his son, Alexander, around 1900. While he was running the business, it was allegedly the largest mail-order whiskey house in the country.

Alexander would go on to build the Rieger Hotel and when the 18th Amendment was passed, Alexander had no choice but to shut the brewery down in December 1919. Not too long after Prohibition started, the Riegers sold the hotel in 1926.

The building subsequently changed hands and names many times over the years, but retained the name “Rieger” carved in marble on the very top of the building. (Source.)

After the closing of the brewery, Alexander and his son, Nathan, opened Home Trust Co., a bank in Kansas City. Unfortunately, the J. Rieger & Co. building was demolished in the 1950s for the construction of a parking lot.

The banking business was in the Rieger family for years all the way until the 1980s, when Jacob's great-great-great grandson, Andy, was born in Kansas City.

It wasn’t until April 2010, 90 years after the onset of Prohibition, that the idea for bringing back the historic distillery was dreamed up by Ryan Maybee, a Kansas City bartender who opened his bar Manifesto in the basement of the Rieger Hotel building the year prior. (Source.)

Click here to read the rest of the remarkable story about how the brewery came alive again. It's a fascinating story as is the history of the Riegers.

Thank you for reading!

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