Landmark should be ready for occupancy by November
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal
Renovation is about 50 percent complete on The Beecher House, one of Somerset’s most historically significant landmarks.
Mark T. Wright, president of Oracle Design Group Inc., Louisville, said all 62 apartments in the five-story structure will be ready for occupancy by the first of November. Renovation will continue into February, he said.
The $4.5 million project to completely redo the historic building began last September. Wright said the current 24 residents of The Beecher House have been relocated inside the building while work is under way. Eighteen of the renovated apartments were complete as of Tuesday and four more were scheduled to be finished this week.
“We’re trying to finish one floor a month,” said Wright. The building has five floors.
Wright’s dream for The Beecher House is “ ... to preserve the magnificence of the entire building and provide an energy efficient, clean and safe place for people to live.”
The facility at 203 South Main Street will remain Section 8 housing for elderly and disabled under a federal program authorizing payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households.
Name of the building will continue to be The Beecher House. Wright said the structure recently was relisted on the National Register of Historical Places. It was originally placed on the national registry as The Hotel Beecher on August 14, 1984.
“We’ve put on a new roof ...installed new insulation, heating and air conditioning, electrical wiring, new elevators, and storm windows,” said Wright. The facade of the building is being restored to its origi-nal appearance.
Wright and his wife, Caryn Winter, were asked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Lou-isville to come to Somerset and cons-ider The Beecher House renovation project. They came and eventually pur-chased the property from Bill Denney and Sons. It is one of several renovation projects Wright and Winter currently have under way in Kentucky.
About the pre-renovation state of The Beecher House, Wright said the building was coming apart. Bricks were falling off the outside ... the roofing, heating, air conditioning and plumbing all were in a bad state of repair.
“Honestly, I don’t think the building would have stood another year,” Wright said.
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.
The former Crystal Ballroom is currently being recreated about 75 percent of its original size, sans the chandeliers.
“Replacing those chandeliers would cost as much as renovating the entire space,” Wright commented. “It simply won’t work in this budget.”
“It is my hope (the new Crystal Ballroom) will become a popular public meeting place,” said Wright. The original entrance to the former ballroom is being preserved.
“There will be a warming kitchen. There won’t be a commercial kitchen ... meals can be catered,” said Wright.
Originally The Hotel Beecher, it had its beginning during the 1920s when the Methodist Episcopal Church started a building on the hotel site that was intended for a church and a community center.
The project was stopped due to lack of funds and Beecher Smith bought the land. The abandoned structure was used as part of the new hotel, constructed in 1929 and opened in 1930.
Old U.S. 27, before the “Truck Route” was built in the 1950s, was the Main Street of Eubank, Science Hill and Somerset. In Somerset, U.S. 27 went through downtown in front of the courthouse and Fountain Square; then by the Hotel Beecher and down Wait’s Hill, veering southward along Johnson’s Block and westward beneath the (now closed) railroad underpass and up old Monticello Street.
Name of The Hotel Beecher in the mid 1970s changed briefly to Carriage Inn. It ceased being a hotel in the late 1970s when then-owner Glen Neikirk created apartments for Section 8 housing.