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Landmark Country Club Plaza Kansas City Hotel
Kansas City’s historic boutique hotel originally opened in 1928 as the Villa Serena Apartments, built to attract the city’s affluent residents. The landmark building’s ornate Italian Renaissance Revival-style was chosen by Alonzo Gentry, a noted architect of the early 1900s, as a Mediterranean complement to the nascent Country Club Plaza. The building remains Kansas City’s most recognized example of the architectural style.
The vintage structure was purchased by the J.C. Nichols Company, developer of the Country Club Plaza, in 1974 to be re-purposed into a hotel patterned after the elegant, small hotels of Europe. It was reborn The Raphael Hotel in 1975 following a renovation that faithfully preserved its historic features while providing for the comforts of contemporary travelers. The hotel’s immediate success helped pioneer two now-popular niche categories: the boutique hotel and the all-suite hotel.
The Raphael was purchased in July, 2005 by Lighthouse Properties, the hotel and hospitality management company owned by the Walker family of Salina, Kansas. In 2006, management began the most extensive restoration of the property since it’s original conversion. The Raphael renovation, including all new infrastructure and decor, was completed in 2010 at a cost greater than its original development and construction in equivalent dollars. The company has continued to upgrade the property with maintenance and cosmetic changes to give guests a heightened sense of place. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Raphael Historical Footnotes
- The property on which The Raphael stands has been fertile earth for nurturing enterprise since the 1800s when famed frontiersman Daniel Boone’s son first trapped furs and later farmed land on the south side of Brush Creek. In the early 1900s a Swiss dairyman transformed a larger parcel of land into a dairy farm. The tract of land on which The Raphael stands also served as a quarry known as Lyle Brickyard and later as Sunset Hills Garden, a nursery and floral shop.
- From his studio in Carrara, Italy, sculptor Bernard Zuckermann created the “Boy with Thorn” statue standing sentinel in the hotel courtyard. The white marble statue set upon an onyx-veined Tuscan travertine marble base is a heroic-size replica of the original figure in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy – which in turn was a replica of a Helenist bronze crafted in the 1st century C.E. Zuckermann’s sculpture was installed in the landscaped courtyard of The Raphael in 1976 and is considered one of the Country Club Plaza’s notable works of art.
- The space currently housing Chaz on the Plaza operated as a beauty salon from 1935 – 1974. Michael’s Salon of Beauty was where one long-time guest received her prom hairdo in the late-1950s and returned to the same spot two decades later for the first date with her eventual husband.
- One of the most dramatic pieces of art in Chaz is a giclée on canvas created from a photograph of a terra cotta warrior standing guard at the Plaza’s Sister Cities International Bridge. The warrior is one of the lifesize replicas at the bridge representing Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s 6,000-warrior Terra Cotta Army. Created during the Qin Dynasty, 3rd century B.C., the terra cotta army was unearthed in Xi’an, China in 1974 as one of history’s great archeological discoveries. The replicas were a gift to the city by the Xi’an Sister Cities Committee. The giclée, which incorporates an innovative digital imaging technique, commemorates the 20th anniversary of Kansas City’s sister city relationship with Xi’an, established in 1989.
- Custom mosaics depicting iconic Country Club Plaza sculptures, fountains and towers were installed in 2011 behind each lobby registration desk. The artwork is symbolic of the mosaics that adorn Country Club Plaza courtyards. They were commissioned to heighten guests’ sense of place and history.