Old Town hotel, seen as a gem, honored for preservation efforts
On the upper reaches of Park Avenue, sitting amid one of the largest concentrations of historic houses in Park City, the building that is now known as the Washington School House Hotel has seen Park City through the decades.
It was built in 1889, nearly a decade before a terrible fire destroyed much of the city, and later survived as Park City struggled through a devastating economic downturn. In the mid-1980s, as the ski industry was expanding, the building was turned into a bed and breakfast.
The Washington School House Hotel in 2011 underwent another revival, a major renovation that has won an accolade for its attention to history. The Historic Preservation Board, a City Hall panel assigned to Old Town issues, recently honored the Washington School House Hotel with the annual Historic Preservation Award.
"We liked their commitment to restoration," said Dave McFawn, the chairman of the Historic Preservation Board, adding that the building continues play to the "city’s heritage, the days of past."
The upper stretch of Park Avenue, south of Heber Avenue, has long been a beloved part of Old Town for the influential preservation community. House after house is historic, and the newer ones tend to fit well on the street, neighborhood enthusiasts say.
"It’s one that certainly stands out as you walk down Park Avenue," McFawn said.
He said the Historic Preservation Board considered four or five other properties for the award this year. It is the second year of the annual awards. Last year’s honor went to High West Distillery, which completed an expansive renovation of a property on Park Avenue close to the bottom of the Town Lift.
A piece of artwork depicting the Washington School House Hotel will be commissioned. It will be put on display at the Marsac Building. A painting of the High West Distillery now hangs in the building to mark its award in 2011.
In a report to the Historic Preservation Board prior to the selection of the award winner, City Hall’s historic preservation planner, Anya Grahn, said preservation efforts are important to Park City and boost tourism and the resort economy.
"The restoration of the landmark Washington School Inn promotes historic preservation within Park City, which adds to our community’s identity and sense of place," the report said.
The report indicated other properties that were under consideration were on Park Avenue, Sandridge Avenue, Empire Avenue and Norfolk Avenue.
The Washington School House Hotel building went up as a school and was turned into a veterans meeting space and dance hall in the 1930s, according to the hotel. It was vacant for a long stretch of the second half of the 20th century before being reopened as a bed and breakfast.
Jessica Davis, the general manager for three-plus years, said the renovation that garnered the award was undertaken between April and December in 2011, describing the work as freshening up the building and returning some historic architectural features. The project included redoing windows measuring nine feet in height so that they are no longer interrupted, as had been the look historically.
A native of London, Davis described the Victorian architecture of the Washington School House Hotel and said the building has a beautiful exterior.
"It reminds me very much of my childhood," she said.
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Beerman said he is aware of landlords offering relief of some sort, but he also acknowledged the landlords earn a living off the rents they collect.