Efforts to Provide a First-Class Hotel Led to Impeachment Against Governor

 

by Jim McKee – Memories and Moments
Anson C. Tichenor arrived in Lincoln in the late 1860s in hopes of making a fortune at the salt flats. It should have been easy with salt selling at the same price as flour and a limitless supply of brine for the taking.

But the paucity of timber made it impossible to boil the waste from the brine and Tichenor was only too happy to dispose of his interests to Horace Smith of Smith & Wesson in 1869.

Looking for a new venture, Tichenor discovered that the fledgling capitol had virtually no rooms for rent to visitors. People attending hearings at the new Capitol and even the legislators themselves had to scramble for beds. Some officials brought bedrolls with them and slept in the mostly unused second floor, others slept on church pews and still others stayed with friends. Tichenor soon hit on the idea of a hotel situated near the Capitol and bought lots on the southwest corner of 13th and K streets.

The 2 1/2-story, 54-room Tichenor House was opened for business in 1871, advertising accommodations for 150 guests. Demand still far exceeded supply and the hotel was an instantaneous success. As with many entrepreneurs, the itch to move to new projects grew in Tichenor, who sold the hotel to Townley and McElhinney, who began operating it.

For several months all went well, then the bombshell dropped. Tichenor had decamped for California as soon as the sale was completed but had failed to mention to the new owners that there was a $10,000 third mortgage outstanding on the property . . . an amount well in excess of the selling price. In fact, in his haste to leave the state he completely forgot to mention the first two mortgages that were still in effect. The good new was that the primary mortgage had been guaranteed by a co-signer. The bad news that Gov. David butler, in an attempt to establish a first-class hotel for Lincoln, had assigned a goodly portion of the state’s school fund. This action was primary to the governor’s subsequent impeachment and removal from office.

The result for the hotel was hardly rosy. The property immediately was sold at a sheriff’s auction and was reopened as the Oriental Hotel. In the interim, other hotels began to open and the reputation of the old Tichenor House faded. Soon the property was listed in the city directory only as the Oriental Livery Barn and eventually was forgotten. Interestingly, the foundation of the building lived on until the 1980s as the basement walls of an apartment building on the same site. Today, the site is a street-level parking lot.