By Les Zaitz
The ghosts of the Vale Hotel are at risk.
They have no electricity, water or sewer.
Their three-story building is in such sad shape that a state group recently branded the hotel as one of “Oregon’s Most Endangered Places.”
That could bring critical help for an immediate repair project and for planning the total restoration of the iconic hotel.
“There needs to be a preservation plan to prioritize the many issues and uses of the building,” said Restore Oregon, the nonprofit that picks structures for its endangered list. Restore Oregon, however, isn’t interested in turning old buildings into museums.
“We’re not about freezing things in amber,” said Peggy Moretti, Restore Oregon executive director. “We want to throw a spotlight on the property as something significant and magnificent in the community and the state, something worth attending to.”
The building opened in 1908 as the Drexel Hotel, closed in 1932, and reopened as the Vale Hotel in 1940. Remodeled into apartments in the 1960s, it shut down in 1969, and subsequently aged and weakened.
Local businessman Mike McLaughlin, currently Vale mayor, bought the building and the nonprofit Drexel H Foundation formed to tackle restoring the structure.
The foundation, in fact, sought the “endangered” designation.
“This designation is very exciting for us,” said McLaughlin.
“We urgently need more help,” said Sandijean Fuson, a Vale attorney and president of the foundation. She said the hotel joins other structures “in imminent danger of being lost if not helped.”
The foundation is focused on repairing brickwork at the rear of the building, a project estimated to cost $53,800. Fuson said the foundation has $3,500 in hand for the work, and a state grant for $20,000 to reimburse costs.
To match that state grant, the foundation in August launched a “Buy a Brick” campaign to sell 500 bricks at $50 each to fund the work.
Over the years, McLaughlin and the foundation have replaced the roof, installed a stabilizing beam, and restored some interior areas, including a room that houses law books.
But the work has come slowly in recent years. The foundation’s federal tax return for 2015 shows it raised $23,725, mostly through grants. Fusion said $3,300 to repair floors. The foundation spent $9,800 on an art program for at-risk youth, the tax return showed.
The Vale Hotel was one of 14 places picked by Restore Oregon for attention this year. Moretti said evaluators consider historic significance and local commitment.
She said Restore Oregon can provide technical assistance to pursue grants and devise long-term restoration plans that turn old buildings into “economic assets.”
Fusion said in a news release that the Drexel H Foundation wants to use the hotel as art center, business incubator, office space and a bed-and-breakfast.
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