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History in progress: Hotel returning to roots
2 Sunflower Room
The signature room, the Sunflower Room, has new paint and wall sconces at the Historic Wolf Hotel in Ellinwood. Small, private dinners or special events are held there. Owner Chris McCord would eventually like to open a commercial kitchen and begin selling fried chicken on Sundays. The Sunflower Room, built in 1923, served as a restaurant for the community and railroad travelers. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

ELLINWOOD — Returning to its roots, the Historic Wolf Hotel in Ellinwood, purchased only one year ago, is well on its way to its former grandeur.
The entire atmosphere of the hotel has transformed, from one of being past its prime, to excitement. The sawdust has flown, the wallpaper stripped, the walls painted, closed rooms reopened and repurposed, all in a breathless whirlwind of activity.
The once glorious building is well on its way to being restored, and after 40 years, most of the rooms are now used.
“We’re making some head way,” said owner Chris McCord. “Sometimes it feels like this is the slowest project ever.” When he looks back, though, at media stories, he can see the progress for himself.
Guests can once again rent a room for rest, and the Sunflower Room serves as space for special events. Catered lunches are served, a church meets on Sundays, and cowboys will soon congregate in the saloon.
The tunnels under the Wolf have been reopened and visitors will see where 19th and early 20th century settlers conducted business.
McCord admits it’s been a roller coaster ride that was overwhelming in the beginning for him and his partner Kelli Penner, who wants to open a room in the basement as a photography studio.
For watchers, though, it seems like the work has progressed at an amazing rate.
The hotel was purchased in May, 2013. “I bought it because I believe in maintaining the integrity of downtown,” McCord said in June 8, 2013 article in the Great Bend Tribune. “It’s the heart of Ellinwood.”
Wood furniture, Ellinwood photos, and historic Ellinwood memorabilia line the walls. McCord loves anything that relates to the history of Ellinwood. He travels to auctions to buy items for the hotel. The hotel has also been the recipient of items that people want to stay in Ellinwood.
Work is progressing on the suite, and dry wall has replaced the lath and plaster. Inch by inch the wall paper that was actually paper has been pealed and pried off.
When the project started, McCord worked five jobs. He sold his house in Great Bend, moved into the hotel, and is now down to three part-time jobs. He no longer lives in the hotel.
He still has dreams that include Murder Mystery dinners, the saloon, a commercial kitchen and completion of the suite.
McCord enjoys the people and has received many ideas from visitors.
“Ultimately, that is what this is for,” said McCord.
The building was named after the original owner, John Wolf, and a dining room was added by his son Fred Wolf in 1923, according to the application for the National Register of Historic Places, which the building received in 2002.
Originally, both sides of the building were accessible by the Ellinwood tunnels. Portions of the tunnels have been filled in, but at one time, the southeast basement was the city library. The outside access to that side of the building was closed during recent street reconstruction.
The basement of the building had full usage during its heyday. It served as a lunch restaurant, men’s club, a drummer’s room, which is where merchants could purchase merchandise, city hall and the city library.
During World War I and II, some residents of German descent took refuge in the tunnels due to the animosity they faced with the wars, according to the National Historic Register.