One of the highlights of any visit to Kansas City is a leisurely stroll through the compact and delightful area of fashionable restaurants, stores and ornate fountains known as the Spanish Plaza – the stucco architecture of its buildings modeled after those in Seville, with whom it has a long-established sister city relationship.
That’s only one of the reasons why the Raphael Hotel – located directly in front of the plaza, a mere hundred meters away – is an excellent choice of accommodation in this Mid-western city.
The others include the hotel’s classic, chocolate-brick façade, its charming, old-world lobby and its overall comfort and quiet, efficient service. The arched glass doorways and decorative white lights outside the main entrance are impressive as is ‘the fire pit’ out front with chairs around it, a relaxing place for a conversation on suitable evenings. Also of interest is a delicately carved alabaster statue of a young boy seated outside on a pedestal one leg over the other gazing forlornly at his foot – a thorn stuck firmly there. Having sat there on a grassy patch scattered with flowerbeds for many years, he’s become the hotel’s unofficial guardian.
Originally opened in 1928 as the Villa Serena Apartments, this Italian Renaissance Revival-style building was transformed into the Raphael Hotel in 1975, following a renovation that preserved many of its historic features. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also part of the Marriott Autograph Collection of independent hotels.
The lobby area is expansive, stretching past several sets of large windows – soft sofas and chairs placed beside each – all offering clear views along Brush Creek and parts of the plaza. Overhead is an impressively carved, varnished wood ceiling from which hangs a glittering chandelier. Shapely, high-backed sedan chairs, some with a chic zebra design, others plush red – the kind you might see in a royal medieval court – stand just inside the front door beside round, marble-topped tables.
With elevators at either end, arriving at rooms is easy and convenient. A simple towel creatively shaped into a white rabbit complete with adorable eyes, perched on the sofa makes for a pleasant and amusing arrival to the bedroom. The suites provide a most attractive vantage point from where one can enjoy wonderful views down towards a statue of Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, seated together on a small stone bridge over Brush Creek (commemorating the former British Prime Minister’s famous ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech at Westminster College in the nearby town of Fulton in 1946 during which he referred to Europe’s “iron curtain”). Beyond the bridge is the Spanish Plaza (or Country Club Plaza) built in 1922 and reputed to be the nation’s first suburban shopping mall.
The room’s décor is elegant without being overly fussy, with beige wallpaper, a brown sofa in the center of the room, two brown armchairs opposite with a linear lime green design on them and a glass-topped coffee table between. A large dining table with eight chairs stands near the far wall.
Aside from individual rooms, The Raphael also hosts small business and social functions.
As mentioned, location is a key advantage for the Raphael – and not just for the Plaza area. The hotel lies within a 15-minute drive of the downtown convention and arts district, the Sprint Center, the Power & Light Entertainment District and the stunning new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Nearby popular city attractions include The National World War I Museum, Union Station, Crown Center, 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, American Jazz Museum, and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Less than a thirty-minute drive away is the Kansas City Zoo, while the Kansas Speedway, the Kauffman baseball and Arrowhead football stadiums are also easily reached.