2017-11-08 / Front Page

City seeking second grant to help with hotel project

By SAM ADAMS

The City of Whitesburg will seek $2.4 million in additional grant money for the Daniel Boone Hotel to build a penthouse suite and a rooftop event space, among other upgrades the nearly century-old hotel.

The money would come from a pilot project of the federal Abandoned Mine Lands program approved by Congress in 2015. The pilot project, pushed by local communities, the Obama administration, and Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, is intended to boost economic opportunities in areas that have been hard-hit by the decline of the coal industry. The first grants were awarded in 2016.

The city has received $1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission to stabilize the 97-yearold hotel, but that’s not enough to renovate it to the point it can be opened. That money will be used to repair the roof, and to make the building safe and strong enough for the planned renovations.

Two leaks in the roof have caused some of the building’s floors to rot and collapse. Part of the stabilization project will be to fix those floors and make the building secure from the elements.

The new grant application is to “make it pretty,” said grant writer Shannon Ratliff, who works with the Kentucky River Area Development District.

City officials are hoping the hotel, much of which offers a great view of nearby Pine Mountain, will serve as a destination and anchor for downtown. Work that would be done under the new grant includes finishing the lobby, guest rooms, and suites inside the existing walls. But it would also pay for adding a rooftop penthouse suite and a rooftop event space for weddings and other gatherings.

The main floor will have a business center with meeting rooms, a fitness center, and possibly retail and entertainment space. Plans also call for the fire escape to be removed from the front of the building because changes in the building codes no longer require it. The steel canopy to which the escape is attached is an original part of the building, and will remain.

The building is the largest in downtown at about 60 by 160 feet with four floors, including the full basement. When it was opened the first week of July 1920, the Daniel Boone Hotel had cost about $100,000 to build and furnish — about $1.2 million in today’s dollars. At the time, it was a first-class hotel in a town that still had dirt streets and farm animals in downtown. In addition to a hotel, it featured a banquet room where many weddings and meetings were held, a cafĂ©, a barbershop and offices. An open atrium allowed sunlight from a skylight to reach to the bottom floor.

That skylight is part of the problem now, said Architect Bill Richardson, who is designing the renovations. Part of the glass was broken and allowed water into the building, damaging three wooden floors below it.

Richardson said a request for proposals for structural engineers is out now. That contract is expected to be awarded later this month, he said. Construction will begin when the engineering work is finished. It could take two to three months to know if the AML grant is awarded.

Richardson said he’s confident the structure will be up to what needs to be done. He said a local builder told him his grandfather watched the first round of cut stone foundation being laid for the building. He said stone masons dug all the way down to bedrock, and then grouted the first round of stone to it.

“It’s not going anywhere,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t have a crack in it.”

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