by Bill Mardis
A planned $2 million renovation of one of Somerset’s historical structures will enhance the southern part of the downtown area.
Facade of The Hotel Beecher, now The Beecher House at 203 South Main Street, will be restored to its original appearance and its once-fabulous Crystal Ballroom will be recreated on a smaller scale, according to Gib Gosser, executive director of Downtown Somerset Development Corporation.
Gosser made the announcement of the grandiose plans during a recent meeting of Somerset City Council for Bill Denney and Sons, current owners of the property. To encourage the project, city council granted a tax moratorium on the property for five years; in other words, freezing the tax assessment for that period.
The renovated building will remain Section 8 housing, a federal program authorizing payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households. Renovation will reduce the current 62 units to 58, Gosser said.
“Nobody will have to move out of the building,” Gosser said. There are enough empty rental units to allow current residents to change apartments while the work is being done. Pavement at the rear of the building will be removed to make way for a mini-park with gazebos, Gosser noted.
Named for the late Beecher Smith, a Somerset entrepreneur, The Hotel Beecher opened in April 1930. It immediately developed a reputation of the finest hotel between Lexington and Knoxville. The Crystal Ballroom, lighted with magnificent chandeliers, was the heartbeat of Somerset, hosting all meetings and social functions of the time.
A small gymnasium in the basement was home court for the Somerset High School basketball team until the WPA built the school’s existing gym in 1938. The Hotel Beecher, almost a Somerset skyscraper, has five floors above ground and two floors below the lobby.
In the 1940s, Goodall, forerunner of Palm Beach Company, began operation in the basement. For about three years, beginning in 1955, Bee Safety Rubber Glove Company headquartered in the basement. Later, the basement served as a warehouse for the former Albertson’s Electric.
Name of The Beecher Hotel in the mid 1970s changed to Carriage Inn. It ceased being a hotel in the late 1970s when then-owner Glen Neikirk created apartments for Section 8 housing.
Oracle Design Group Inc., a Louisville firm, will prepare the design for the upcoming renovation project. Christopher Byrd is the architect.
Construction is projected to start in mid-August and completion is set for December 2013. Efforts to contact owner Bill Denney were not successful.
Bill Mardis may be contacted at email@example.com or telephone 451-4919.