Maggie Steed built the Metropolitan Hotel in 1909 when she was 24 years old. Maggie, a woman of “color”, was far ahead of her time, as she saw when she arrived in Paducah in 1893, the need for a hotel that would house “colored” people.
Maggie’s father was a slave and when President Lincoln offered slaves a chance to fight in the Civil War effort, he promised them and their families freedom after the war. Many colored regiments were continued after the war and Maggie arrived in Paducah in 1893 mainly due to the colored regiment that was located there and for the opportunities for young colored women in the area.
Using her husband’s name, Maggie dealt with the lumber company that owned the land, purchasing the land and materials for her hotel. For $2 a day, guests could stay at her hotel and be treated to biscuits and coffee in the mornings at 6 a.m. The Hotel Metropolitan, named by Maggie to give it a high-class sound, was very forward-thinking because it had lights and running water.
Many famous African-Americans traveled the “Chitlin Circuit” (the name of the route of hotels that accepted African-Americans as guests). In 1915, it was so highly respected that it housed many members attending the Golden Jubilee convention of the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky. Famous guests who stayed there through the hotel’s operation were Louie Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, B. B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Marcus Haines, Jessie Owens, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Langford Hughes and the Negro Baseball League were also guests traveling the Chitlin Circuit.
After Maggie’s death in 1924, her son ran the hotel for two to three years, then sold it to Mamie Burbridge. After her death, Lester and Olivia Gaines and their son, Clarence “Big House” Gaines (who was to become the 3rd winningest coach in the United States) owned it at one point.
The Hotel Metropolitan is located at 724 Oscar Cross Street in Paducah, KY. It was Big House Gaines that made the property available for preservation as a museum. Betty Dobson and others she gathered to her created the Upper Town Heritage Foundation which rehabilitated the Hotel so that it is now a viable museum. Betty Dobson carries the message of the Hotel as she travels around as herself and occasionally in the persona of Miss Maggie talking to various community, service and historical organizations. Visit the Hotel Metropolitan’s website at www.thehotelmetropolitan.org to find out more about this important historic landmark.