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Shenandoah Hotel renovations progressing

May 02, 2001

Shenandoah Hotel renovations progressing



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

Restoring the ShenandoahPhoto: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

The Shenandoah Hotel will rise again.

The old hotel in the heart of Martinsburg will be restored to its old name as it is being restored to some of its former grandeur.

Those were the plans outlined by contractor Jim Palm of Plateau Builders, who is working with owner Ben Fogle to fix up the building, find tenants for it and turn it into the bustling business it once was.

The building originally was built with private donations in the 1920s and named the Shenandoah Hotel. It served as the civic heart of the community for decades. It was renamed the Gateway Inn in the 1960s and the building was finally abandoned in the 1980s except for a ground-floor restaurant.

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Fogle bought the building earlier this year and initially decided to keep the current name, largely because of the expense to change it back. Palm said they have reconsidered.

"The sign hasn't been made up yet, but a lot of people really want to see it go back, especially the old people," Palm said. "They remember it as a grand hotel. I believe bringing it back to the old Shenandoah will not only bring people in (as tenants), but it is what the community wants."

The cost of the sign will be about $15,000, Palm said.

Among other plans are those to restore the magnificent old lobby, which was divided by a wall years ago, Palm said. They want to tear down the wall, decorate the columns in an ornate way and set up a newsstand and coffee shop with some casual seating, he said.

"It will be something that will catch everybody's eye," he said.

They've also cleaned out the upper floors, which Palm said was a gargantuan task.

"We've taken out dumpster after dumpster and we've got a few dumpster loads to go," he said.

Palm has been busy power-washing the brick from a huge cherry picker. Most of the boarded-up windows have been replaced with glass. Plans are on the drawing board to put three-tone paneling around the base of the building on the Queen Street and Martin Street sides. City health officials have signed off on the improvements made so far, and paving of the back parking area should occur next month, he said. More painting and other cosmetic work is planned.

All the major improvements are contingent on finding tenants, he said.

"We've had some interest, but we really haven't marketed it," he said. "We really need to get some income flowing" before any major renovations are done.

Once the building looks good, they should be able to find people to occupy it, he said. They want to gut the upper floors and make them suitable for office space.

They plan to keep the hotel's past alive, Palm said.

Old fire bells and doors with the original numbers may be part of a display. Palm is asking area residents with memories of the hotel to share them and anyone with any memorabilia from the hotel may want to consider donating it, he said. They hope to produce a small paperback of stories from the old hotel.

Workers have already discovered old wanted posters from the post office, old soda cans and bottles and a knife hidden behind some of the drywall, among other artifacts.

Palm said much work remains, but he is reassured by the encouragement he has gotten. "A lot of people would love to see it in use again," he said. "It's starting to shape up."

Anyone with memories of the old Shenandoah Hotel or memorabilia from the hotel is asked to contact Jim Palm at 1-304-260-9201.

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