For the early shining decades of Joplin’s history, there was one place to have a drink and a meal. It was the House of Lords. It was an attitude cultivated by the establishment, as shown in the advertisement below from the first decade of the 1900’s. Also below is a glimpse inside the famed locale, a view of the cafe area and above, the bar.
This photograph comes to Historic Joplin courtesy the great-grandson of Joseph “Joe” Dorizzi. Dorizzi is the man standing in the center of the photo flanked by two unknown men. He was one of the last to own the famed House of Lords. Notice the large, vertical House of Lords Budweiser sign – it replaced a smaller sign that hung outside the establishment years earlier. Although we’ve come to know the Budweiser Clydesdales and even the Budweiser frogs, you’ll see that in this case it’s a Budweiser mule team in front of the House of Lords. Perhaps it was a tip of the hat to the noble Missouri mule. We thank the owner of the photo for sharing this incredible treasure.
If you have ever lived in Joplin, you have undoubtedly heard about the House of Lords. Usually one hears a story that goes like this: Bar on the bottom floor, gambling on the second floor, and a brothel on the third floor. After reading years of Joplin newspapers, we can honestly say that yes, there is truth in the story. There were slot machines, there were countless rounds served at the bar, and yes, there were prostitutes working the building. This excerpt from a letter describes what one resident saw one day while working downtown:
“Two weeks ago last Saturday night, I, stood in front of the Joplin Hotel, and such a sight as was seen on the opposite side of the street cannot be forgotten. A drunken, brazen, disgusting prostitute stood in front of a window in the third story of the House of Lords as naked as when she came into the world, in plain view of the hundreds of people walking up and down the street, and not an officer with the courage or decency to prevent it. Ladies were obliged to turn their faces or leave the street; and I am told that the proprietor of the hotel cannot assign a lady a front room because of the character of the occupants in the building across the street. Sodom and Gomorrah were never sunk as deep in the depths of infamy and vice as this, and the prayers of the wives and mothers of Joplin will be answered.”
There are two articles concerning history in the Joplin Globe this weekend. The first is a further update on the recently renovated Gryphon Building. Last week we referred to an article on the present status of the building and its progress in finding tenants. In that article, it was mentioned that a restaurant would be entering the building. This weekend brought more news along that front.
Richard and Amy Sanell, owners of the successful Cafe on the Route over in Baxter Springs, will be the ones behind the Gryphon building restaurant. Of interest, Richard Sanell suggests that the menu might be based upon previous menus of downtown’s former great dining locations, the Connor hotel and the House of Lords. More info on the Sanells and their plans can be found in the article.
The other article is a short write up by Joplin Museum Director, Brad Belk, on the dedication of Joplin High School in 1958. The article briefly covers the decisions behind building the new school, the funding measures that succeeded and failed, and the final result with some specifics, such as the number of bricks used in the school’s construction.
We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Now back to the trenches!