March 4, 2012

Antlers Hotel by Mike Morrissey


On the north-west corner of Washington and First sits a 4-story building with a checkered past. Originally built as a two-story before the turn of the 20th century, it was expanded and modernized in the 19-teens, and re-faced with all new brick on the Washington street side. The “Absolutely Modern” concept painted on the exterior wall included a new elevator (!) and private bathrooms in some rooms. Its neighbor on 1st street, a smaller hotel known as The Rogers, (built by the well-known local family) was purchased, and  at some point, an ill-conceived plan was hatched to merge the two. The two buildings, unfortunately, share nothing in their design, except the common wall. This made the union of the two a bit awkward, needing long ramps to make up the difference in floor levels.

The current owner, Rustin, showed me through the buildings, and the amount of work done in the past few years is impressive. I hadn’t been through them in over 10 years, and I’ve gotta say, WOW. There has been literally TONS of debris hauled out, including inches of pigeon guano, lath-and-plaster and just plain DIRT.

There had been extensive water-damage incurred during the decades of disuse   upstairs. I was told by one of my sources that the roof didn’t get fixed ‘til the leaks showed up in the main floor offices, 4 floors below…

Back in the day, the main floor consisted of a large lobby, decorated with many mounted “racks” and heads of deer and elk, as well as retail space. Western Union had an office there. A stairwell down through the sidewalk offered access to a restaurant/ grill in the basement. The basement area featured “window-wells” in the sidewalk, paved over by glass brick, for natural lighting in the kitchen areas. Later, the basement was remodeled into apartments. The glass brick is gone, along with the restaurant in the basement, but Rustin has a future plan for a “spa-type” stay, which would include breakfast in his wife’s little bistro on the main floor, and perhaps dinner next door, at the old telephone building. The new wave of entrepreneurs every few years is one of the things that has kept our downtown lively, and we wish him the best of luck!

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