“It was the hopping place to be.”
— Paul Burger, Paducah Native.
The mission of one of Paducah’s most prestigious historic buildings, the Ritz, is “to provide a service to Paducah.” And as Paul Burger states, it was the place to be in Paducah. Recently under new ownership by Jim, Melody and Jenny Chapman, the family made it their mission to continue that heritage and legacy by purchasing, renovating and restoring the historic Ritz building.
The Ritz was built in 1929 by the Charleston Investment Company of St. Louis. It was a product of the roaring and prosperous 1920s and was built to provide overnight accommodations from people as diverse as the traveling aristocrat to the working man. Word has it that even President Harry S. Truman stopped and stayed at the Ritz during Alben Barkley’s presidential campaign.
As America entered WWII, the Ritz served its country and was used as a facility to provide serviceman with ambitions to join the US Army with physical examinations. The Red Cross was also a temporary tenant at one time.
Today, the Chapmans have worked hard to bring back the inviting and relaxing atmosphere of the historic Ritz establishment by renovating its many rooms, retail spaces and historic emblems.
“Our tenants are as diverse as young professionals moving back to Paducah to get a job to people who are relocating from the outskirts of Paducah to be closer to their jobs”
The historic Ritz is undergoing dramatic renovations to modernize the apartments, one room at a time, with all new flooring, kitchen cabinets and appliances. It has 47 apartments and is currently has a waiting list for new tenants.
“Our tenants are as diverse as young professionals moving back to Paducah to get a job to people who are relocating from the outskirts of Paducah to be closer to their jobs,” says Jim Chapman.
One of the most talked about rooms in the Ritz is the grand ballroom. It was the buzz around town for its many dances and parties. Jim calls the grand ballroom the “Crown Jewel” of the building and is excited to restore the historic room while giving it a modern update. Just this year, it hosted more than 15 events from dances to wedding receptions.
With renovations underway, Jim’s goal is to complete the most major and time-consuming projects as soon as possible. The next major projects including adding a rooftop dog park, which will be open to the public during the day, and recovering the underground parking lot which will occupy approximately 25 vehicles.
But many of the renovations have turned into restoration projects as historic gems have been discovered within the walls of the Ritz. As contractors worked on the lobby, they discovered the “Juliet balcony” that is fully now restored. Though deemed small renovation compared to other projects, Jim is excited to bring the Ritz sign back to “light.” It is located above the lobby’s entrance outside and has 24 giant lightbulbs that beamed the sign across Paducah in past times.
“The more praise and compliments we heard about our efforts to bring back the historic building, the more that fueled us to keep going and recover historic emblems during our renovations,” said Jim Chapman, owner of the Ritz Midtown.
Historically, the Ritz not only housed tenants, overnight guests and entertainment but it was the home to many staple shops and establishments in Paducah.
Tenants of the Ritz live in modern apartments and have access to the historic building’s many amenities, including the shops that reside within the building. In the past, there was a grocery store, barber shop, and even a radio station located inside the Ritz. Today, it houses seven retail tenants:
Today, with the Ritz Midtown having a waiting list for new tenants, and being the home of a restaurant, several beauty services, a home interior store, photographer and real estate agency, the Ritz is on its way to becoming a “hopping” place to be once again.