As fortune would have it, Stephen Craig would fly back to one of the first airports he went to after receiving his private pilot certificate decades earlier. It wasn’t an executive airport sitting in suburbia, or a small backcountry strip carved into the mountains, but was still entirely special.
It was the Beaumont Hotel Airport (07S) in Beaumont, Kansas. Situated in the picturesque Flint Hills region of the state, the airport is a short taxi from the same named hotel that first opened in the 19th century. And without the hotel, Craig’s connection to the airport would not have endured as it has today.
Having been involved with hospitality property development and operations since the early 1970s, his re-involvement with the airport provides a story of happenstance.
“I had been living in California and the company I was involved with had changed quite a bit,” Craig said. “Eventually, I became the sole shareholder. One day, my operations guy ran across a unique hotel and airport in Kansas that he brought to my attention.
“The hotel was closed with a lot of deferred maintenance. But at the asking price, I thought it would be a good opportunity.”
Armed with the experience and resources to improve it, Craig purchased the property in March 2001. Improvements were made over the next nine or so months.
“The entire building was remodeled, including the restaurant, café, kitchen, and 10 rooms. [It was] all brought up to current codes.”
Each of the improvements were carefully chosen as to not erase the charm of the establishment, rather add to its, at the time, 122-year history.
How it Started
As noted on the property’s website, “The Beaumont Hotel was created in 1879 as a stagecoach and railroad stop to shelter weary pioneers when the railroad brought cattle barons and frontier society to Beaumont.
“Surrounded by lush native grass, the hotel nestled deep in the Flint Hills became a magnet for cattle buyers visiting the surrounding big spreads. As the nation grew, so did aviation; in 1953, a north and south native grass airstrip was carved out of the prairie so airplanes could taxi right up to The Beaumont Hotel’s front door.”
Still boasting its original charm, the hotel as it exists today offers five rooms with king-sized beds, five rooms with queen-sized beds, and a restaurant, as well as common areas and meeting spaces. Also housed on the grounds are an 11-space, full-service RV-park, and a tiny home that’s available to stay in.
The site is also home to Barry Seal’s 1949 Twin Beech D18S. The life of Barry Seal is well portrayed in two recent movies—American Made starring Tom Cruise and Double-Crossed starring Dennis Hopper.
The place serves as an attractive spot for people wanting to come to a place with old roots and modern amenities. Spring, summer, and fall are the busy seasons for the hotel, but it also sees a steady flow of visitors throughout the winter as well.
The atmosphere has increasingly become a competitive advantage in the world of large chain hotels, during a time when people have sought more personal experiences.
Beaumont’s visitors are a healthy mix of people arriving via car, motorcycle, or RV, in addition to pilots flying in a wide variety of aircraft. Many of the guests arriving with their aerial transports come to attend model-specific fly-ins. Over the past several years, the hotel has hosted many aviation type clubs, including the:
- International Stinson Club
- The Cessna 195 Club
- International 180/185 Club
Whichever aircraft makes the journey is treated to the unique experience of taxiing through some of Beaumont to get to the hotel. After exiting the airstrip at the southern end, pilots take a paved county road approximately a fifth of a mile and then park right across from their intended destination. Here, airplanes line up facing the hotel, adjacent to several spots listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One of these is the Frisco Water Tower, which was built in 1885 to provide water for steam locomotives. It is believed to be the last remaining one of its kind in the country.
From the Bent Propeller Parking, next to the aged wooden tower, it’s only a quick walk to the restaurant. Here, surrounded by aviation memorabilia and photos signed by famed aviators, pilots from near and far congregate Saturday mornings for good food and skyward conversation.
Craig and his team have made adjustments to help preserve the spot’s heritage and entice fellow aviators to enjoy it. Most important to these flying travelers is the airport and 2,400-foot-long by 80-foot-wide turf runway that serves as their gateway to south central Kansas. Before, the landing strip had largely been left untouched since its creation.
One of the first things Craig accomplished was obtaining an FAA recognition of the Beaumont Hotel Airport as a privately owned, public-use airport with the 07S identifier. Today, most of the work pertains to the runway surface itself, and in particular, its length.
Craig’s team is preparing for an extension.
“I recently purchased approximately 18 acres from the adjoining landowner to permit lengthening the runway from its 2,400 feet to 3,400 feet,” Craig said. “Extensive excavation is ongoing to make overall improvements to the runway.”
Having re-opened the hotel shortly after 9/11, the facility has weathered several general aviation slumps in recent years. But the persistence of pilots and their love for the sky will ensure the site’s treasured continuum well into the future.