Spirits of former, well-satisfied patrons may visit or reside
quietly here: A well-loved movie star, a female entity and an artist.
Tom and I visited the old, woe-be-gone Blackhawk Hotel in August of 2008, before its marvelous transformation. Standing in front of this once grand hotel, and looking at its front view on E. 3rd Street, The Blackhawk Hotel surely did look the part of a haunted hotel. This once elegant eleven storied brick hotel, with a marble facade, was falling apart in spots. Tom peeked in the front lobby window and saw an abandoned mess.
However, when we walked across the street to get a view of its block long side, the visitor could see that this tough old gal still had good structural bones, though the inside was a disaster on some floors. We saw hopeful signs in its parking lot that someone still cared for it.
The Blackhawk Hotel was a great candidate for restoration; a long process that took awhile to achieve, with the considerable help from Marriott, but the wait was well worth it!!
The owners teamed up with Marriott, and 46 million dollars was wisely spent to transform this woe-be-gone, fixer-upper opportunity into a very upscale, 4 star hotel, that surely does its part to draw people to Davenport, IA, becoming an economic anchor for the business community in Davenport.
Reopening in 2010, The Blackhawk Hotel is now called “The Hotel Blackhawk,” and is described as offering “a something old something new” approach to hospitality and a fresh new focus on modern amenities and rich décor, all the while keeping a hand in the past under the direction of an artful restoration team.”
Tom and I recently stopped by for a tour in Sept. of 2013. WOW! What a difference. Being both “hip” and “historic”, this blend of style was done superbly! Besides offering a glorious treat for the eyes, with such qualities from its past as marble floors, a re-installation of the sky light in the lobby, antique period furnishings, crystal chandeliers, restored 1915 architectural details on the walls, and stairs, the designers thought outside the box, and really made some practical changes to the structure, making great use of the entire building, really putting this huge boatload of investment funds to good use! This transformation included many ways to offer services to a variety of events, as well as to present a wealth of amenities, sure to please the most discerning guest. Amenities include an indoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, bowling alley, full-service spa, “diverse dining and meeting space.” There is also both restaurant, and a cafe, a bar, a haircut facility, a sundries store, and friendly, helpful staff to help guests with their requests.
The top two floors were renovated into plush apartments for rent, yet another revenue source. The banquet rooms, especially The Gold Room, are so stunning, that the hotel has booked a wedding every weekend through 2014! They have a walkway right to their own space for entertainment events, and are right next to the RiverCenter as well, becoming a convenient place to stay for convention attendees, and theater lovers as well as performers as well. Other spaces cater to business seminars, reunions, and any other event.
The well-known and famous once again stay at the Hotel Blackhawk. Recently, Bill Cosby and President Obama stayed here, to name just a few.
In its glory days, it must have been as grand as The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. This historically high-end Blackhawk Hotel was built in 1915, during an economic boom period in Davenport. It originally was a seven storied hotel. In the 1920’s, money was flowing into the city, and so four stories were added, creating a 400 room brick hotel, with a fancy frontage, complete with marble accents around the windows.
During its long history, prominent guests stayed at the Blackhawk Hotel, from movie stars to politicians. Carey Grant, Carl Sandburg, Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Jack Dempsey were some of its more “distinguished guests.”
The joint must have been jumping during the roaring twenties, and throughout the following years, with live music, gala affairs in its huge ballroom, and in its more intimate lounge area. Big bands such as Guy Lombardo and Stan Kenton played their music for the entertainment of many.
In the late 1970’s, the economic growth which was enjoyed in Davenport flat-lined. The city of Davenport jumped into action and took urban renewal seriously, and built a new civic center, called River-center; a good first step in their attempt to revitalize downtown. Over the years this effort to revitalize downtown Davenport has proven to be an uphill battle in which they have made good progress, seeing improvements as a result of their efforts.
A turn of bad luck for Davenport and The BlackHawk Hotel happened in the 1980s. A farming crisis brought economic pain and job loss, which their economy needed as much as a hole in the head.
However, Iowans are tough people who don’t give up. In the 1990’s, when the economy picked up a bit, a convention center was built near the Blackhawk Hotel. Plus, many new additions to existing buildings and renovations took place, and the construction of new buildings such as the Figge Art Museum brought new energy into the city. Plans to attract visitors downtown started with sprucing up their outside, public areas, such as the fixing up of Modern Woodmen Park. In order to develop the river front area and build a new hotel which was badly needed, the city struck a deal with a gambling organization, The Isle of Capri who also bought the then dowdy Blackhawk Hotel. Uh oh!
While this seemed like a good idea at the time, it proved to be disastrous for the Blackhawk Hotel. It reopened as The President Casinos Blackhawk Hotel, with close proximity to a gaming casino. Unfortunately, The Isle of Capri reneged on building the new hotel which was needed downtown, and proved to be “unkind” to the Blackhawk Hotel, severely neglecting its needs, letting it sink down to the level of a low-budget hotel for their gamblers. Over the next few years, it sank even further, and was described by a former guest as a “flophouse.”
Damage occurred on the inside when some gamblers set up a meth lab, which exploded, causing a fire, wrecking one floor. Other floors suffered water damage as a result of the hoses used to squelch the flames. However, it was the lack of effort during a cold spell to prevent the freezing and bursting of the water pipes which finally closed this hotel in 2005, leaving the RiverCenter in a spot, as there was now no hotel at all, except the Radisson, to take its visitors, making it hard to book shows and conventions there.
After some political wrangling and some good choices made by the city council, the Blackhawk Hotel was sold in 2006 for a dollar to an experienced, enthusiastic hotel restoration / renovation company, Restoration Saint Louis, owned by husband-and-wife team Amrit and Amy Gill. The Isle of Capri Company was motivated finally to do the right thing and sell, not only because of their own tax issues in the amount of 100,000 dollars, but also because of the intense pressure coming from the city council to do so.
In August of 2008, the state of Iowa awarded the Gills restoration/renovation company, Restoration Saint Louis, a huge tax incentive of $8.5 million dollars, a huge tax credit which will help to raise more money through other investors, turning the tax credit into restoration and renovation funding. This tough old gal of a hotel had a future now, and its restoration and renovation had a fighting chance!
Restoration Saint Louis published a mission statement for The Blackhawk Hotel: “The main goal is to make the Blackhawk a place to be once again. Plans include a first-floor restaurant and retail space, 20 apartments, 136 hotel rooms and a pool. The Gold Room, an events space, will be renovated, with the plan to remove part of a floor to re-create an atrium between the first floor lobby and the ceiling for the re-installation of the sky light creating the once original historic look.”
Restoration Saint Louis wound up partnering with the Marriott Hotel Corp., that is a huge corporation with deep pockets, willing to invest a boatload of money. They turned out to be a great investor to have in restoring this huge fixer-upper opportunity! MARRIOTT to their credit saw the possibilities of this sad-looking property, and had an ambitious vision that matched the plans of Restoration Saint Louis.
This ambitious restoration of the Blackhawk’s 209,000 sq. footage was finished in 2010, and The Blackhawk Hotel opened its doors for business, as “hip and historic Hotel Blackhawk. ” It was restored with its past beauty in tack, and revamped for the present and future, with respect to its “opulent Italian Renaissance architecture with Art Deco elements.” The Hotel Blackhawk once again is the “Reigning Dame of Newport”, being the beneficiary of this BOATLOAD of investment money; a $46.0M renovation.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Throughout the years, at least two known entities are still visiting this hotel, perhaps making it their home in their after-life.
People who enjoy, or have a strong attachment to a place during their life-time, sometimes choose to hang around, remembering their good times, or the events which took place there. Cary Grant died in a room on the eighth floor from a cerebral hemorrhage on November 29th, 1986. Perhaps, other men and women died here too.
Renovations and improvements to old, fixer-upper opportunities can act as environmental triggers, that will drawback spirits who loved the structure. People who die in a structure often like to stay or come visit the last place that they were staying, while alive. Carey Grant died in this hotel, and perhaps a few others did also.
Female entity from the glory days of the Blackhawk Hotel
A pleasant female entity, dressed in a red or blue evening dress and attire to match, has been seen floating contently down the halls of the hotel, perhaps on her way down to the grand ballroom for an evening of dining, dancing and enjoying great music.
Entity of a musician
They who used to perform solo or with a band haunts the ballroom.
Some unknown entity plays the piano, as piano music has been heard coming from the ballroom, when no one living was there.
The entity of an elderly, well-dressed man
He has been seen by witnesses going about his business in the hotel – Some say it is Carey Grant.
2005 – the present day: Apparently, spirits have returned to the hotel, as activity has been noticed by other guests and staff.
Since the hotel was renovated, apparently the spirit of Cary Grant has come back and enjoys the hotel; especially his room, 907.
Guests who stay in his room feel his friendly presence.
Workmen who have maintenance to do in room 907, have felt his presence benignly watching them with interest.
Paranormal investigators like to rent room 907 in hopes in getting the spirit of Cary Grant to talk to them or catch some hard evidence.
He is shy about getting his picture taken. a paranormal investigator tried to get a photo of where she thought he was standing, but the film in the camera kept rewinding; ruining the photo taken.
Workmen who have maintenance to do in room 907, have felt his presence benignly watching them with interest.
Most Probably so!
Apparently the spirits who loved the old Black Hawk Hotel and returned and love all the wonderful improvements as well as the well-done restorations. Front and center is the spirit of Carey Grant. The staff knows he is there, and allow investigators to rent is room, as well as other people interested in the paranormal.
The other activity also has returned. The spirits here don’t mind sharing with the living, because they did so while alive.
200 East 3rd Street #3
Davenport, Iowa 52801
The Hotel Blackhawk, formerly known historically as The Blackhawk Hotel can be found in downtown Davenport on E. 3rd St. between S. Brady Street and N. Pershing Avenue.
- Blackhawk Hotel (2008) page on HauntedHouses.com
- Hotel Blackhawk on Ghosttraveller.com
- Hotel Blackhawk on HauntedHovel.com
- Hotel Blackhawk on Hauntedplaces.com
- “We fell in love with the building and the rest is history” on restorationSTL
- List of Davenport Mayors on Davenport Wikipedia page
- “Gills Sell Off Part of St. Louis Portfolio” on Quad-City Times
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr