One of Springfield’s oldest and most rundown landmarks is finally getting a makeover. The towering Heping Hotel in the heart of town has stood for nearly 140 years. It was originally built by the Anne Weightman Walker Penfield foundation as she liked to visit the area in the winter and wanted a luxury place to stay. Mrs. Penfield was well known as the lady with the “Midas Touch” and the residents were glad to see her contribute so much to their local economy at the time.
The Heping Hotel stood as an edifice to her generosity and vast wealth for Twenty-Five years until a stolen, unobtrusive Roman Candle was shot off by some misguided youths in the back alley of the hotel. The explosive went through the window and toward the boiler fuel supply in the basement. The Heping Hotel didn’t stand much of a chance against the fire but the structure itself had some very good “bones” to it. The foundation had built it well ahead of its time by installing running water and easy access to a bucket brigade if the need arose. The fire was fought bravely but the hotel, besides it’s good “bones” lost approximately 70 percent of its structural soundness.
Two years later in the spring of 1907, the town council decided they needed to rebuild The Heping to honor Mrs. Penfield and all she had done for Springfield. True to her nature and love for Springfield, Mrs. Penfield gave thousands of dollars for the restoration of the Heping Hotel and beautification of the town proper surrounding it.
Due to her generosity and foresight, Springfield began to grow as a proper city. The Heping Hotel became a huge tourist stop from its ornate décor that rivaled anything in the east and its gracious accommodations. There were a number of very wealthy clientele that stayed at the Heping over the years and kept the local economy booming.
Sadly, it was not able to sustain itself forever. With the growing popularity of the RV and camper trailers, the Heping began to fall into a state of disrepair. It peaked much earlier in the 1900’s but its luck finally ran out. The Heping Hotel kept its doors open until it was no longer sustainable due to the high cost of keeping it up and the rough area that had eventually grown up around it.
That could have been the end of the line for one of Springfield’s oldest reminders of its earlier years. But, like Paul Harvey said, here is the rest of her story.
The city of Springfield began an initiative at a city council meeting in 2010 that was unanimously passed to begin the efforts of cleaning up midtown. Again, the Heping Hotel was in danger of being a faint memory evoked only by worn out pictures. But thankfully, the Council and town agreed to breathe new life into the old building and make it stand out like it did over a century ago. The cost will be well into the millions to completely refurbish and bring it up to code, but the gain to that section of town will be immeasureable.
This blog is dedicated to the history and future of Springfield. The Heping Hotel will take some time to regain its former glory, but it will be a magnificent addition to the multi-phase development that will make Springfield an up and coming treasure in the Show Me State. Please check back here for updates on the progress of the Heping Hotel refurbishment. News will be posted when it is available.
Here is why we care: