The Hotel Metropolitan
Preserving Important Moments in African American History
About The Hotel Metropolitan
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, The Hotel Metropolitan is an African American history museum on the site that served as lodging for African Americans in western Kentucky during the era of racial segregation.
During the time of Segregation, Jim Crow and widespread discrimination in America, travel was complex and risky for African Americans. African Americans were often refused food, lodging and prone to arrest. These brave travelers relied on the spoken word of a safe communication network originally known as the Chitlin’ Circuit.
The Chitlin’ Circuit was a collection of music venues safe for African American performing artists throughout the east coast, South and upper Midwest areas of the United States. The Negro Motorist Green Book, commonly known as the Green Book, was a written guide for services and establishments welcoming to African Americans. The Hotel Metropolitan’s proximity to performance venues along the “Chitlin’ Circuit” and its commitment to providing a welcoming and safe place of rest for weary musicians led to The Hotel Metropolitan’s inclusion in the Green Book.
The cultural and historical significance is immense to the regional black community as it was one of the few local venues outside of churches where African Americans could safely meet and gather during racial segregation. The Hotel was largely responsible for bringing America’s most prominent African American performers to Paducah. Guests included Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Thurgood Marshall, Ike and Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, Satchel Paige, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Negro Baseball League, Josh Gibson, Marques Haynes, Ray Charles and B.B. King just to name a few.
Recent historic records have shown that The Hotel Metropolitan broke ground in 1904. Since its founding, The Hotel Metropolitan has been overcoming obstacles. At the turn of the twentieth century, women did not own businesses and they did not take out bank loans. Determined to make her dream a reality, founder Maggie M. Steed used her late husband’s name to facilitate funding for the construction of her hotel. She is the first of a century of women to own and operate the venue.
After lodging world-famous celebrities for decades, the Hotel Metropolitan was shut down and abandoned in 1996. In 1999 the building was condemned and slated for destruction.
For years, the Hotel Metropolitan sat vacant awaiting demolition in the former Bronsville area, also called the Upper Town area, of Paducah. But that all changed when Betty Dobson had an idea.
On the cusp on the 21st century, Betty sought ways to give back to her community. During a day of service for Paducah’s youth she met the Reverend Jimmy Hodge who shared his dream of seeing The Hotel Metropolitan saved. Betty admitted to Reverend Hodge that she believed the hotel needed to be torn down. It was in a state of disarray and folding at the seams.
That’s when Reverend Hodge shared the important role The Hotel Metropolitan played in African American history. The stories he shared grabbed Betty’s attention and sparked an idea. That day she joined the long line of women committed to the dream. She proclaimed that day to save the historical hotel. And with the help of the Upper Town Heritage Foundation and co-founder of the Upper Heritage Foundation, Sheryl Cooper, she did just that.
It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. We can’t let this go. We’ve got to do something.
Restoration of The Hotel Metropolitan began in 1999 after The Upper Town Heritage Foundation secured funding of almost $1 million to save the Hotel. It opened as a museum in 2008.
Help us Preserve the Legacy
The hotel touches people. If you like history, history is here. If you like music, music was here. Race aside, the hotel has an interest for everyone,
– Betty Dobson, Director, The Hotel Metropolitan.
Today, The Hotel Metropolitan is one of Paducah’s most treasured historic and cultural landmarks. Every room showcases an important moment in African American history. With a guest list including notable and famed African-American athletes, politicians and musicians of the 1900s, The Hotel Metropolitan is embedded with stories and history within every wall. Grace the halls that once hosted legends. Visit The Hotel Metropolitan and stand where legends once stood.
Help Us Keep This History Alive For Generations
Your donations are needed to help us maintain this piece of history. To donate to the Hotel Metropolitan, please make your checks payable to:
Upper Town Heritage Foundation
724 Oscar Cross Ave.
Paducah, KY 42003
Thank you for your support.
Our Guest List
Individuals and Groups Known To Have Stayed at the Hotel Metropolitan
Interested In Taking A Tour?
We’d love to take you on a walk through history. Learn the stories that passed through the walls of The Hotel Metropolitan during its near century of operation. Tours are offered at the Hotel Metropolitan by appointment. To book a tour, please call 270-994-1783.