Crews began work today on a renovation project at the Hotel Stilwell in Pittsburg.
The project will provide outside access to the basement of the hotel, which will allow equipment to be easier brought into the building and provide better safety in case of a fire. They will also install a French Drain System to prevent flooding in the basement.
"Anytime you have water around a foundation, it will cause problems," said Sara Henry, Executive Director of Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation (SHEF).
The total cost of the project is an estimated $123,500. The Heritage Trust Fund grant through the Kansas State Historical Society is paying $90,000 of that amount and the rest will be paid through SHEF.
The historic building dates back to 1890 and has served as a 44 bedroom apartment complex since 1997. It was community support that led to the renovation of these apartments a long with the original lobby area and ballroom of the hotel where special events are held.
"Some people wanted to see it torn down and turned into a parking lot, but we felt like it was too valuable," Henry said.
Bud Benelli owns the jewelry store located just outside the hotel and says preserving the building is important to many residents in Pittsburg.
"We helped save this hotel. If it wasn't for that, it would have been torn down," Benelli said. "It's important to the town, very important to keep it going because these old buildings are history."
And that history includes some high-profile guests.
"We had some very famous people who stayed here," Henry said. "President Teddy Roosevelt came, William Jennings Bryan was here and we think Susan B. Anthony was also here."
Henry says the hotel does not just belong to the foundation, but also to the community.
"We're the stewards of the building and the community owns it," she said.
This portion of the project is expected to be completed by September, if not sooner.