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Progress is being made from the floor up at Atwater's historic hotel

Workers from Gopher State Construction shore up the basement beams Monday in the Hotel Atwater. Remodeling at the historic building is expected to be completed in July. The building, which has been vacant for years, will house the city office, library and police department. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

ATWATER -- More than a month into a $500,000 remodeling project, there is still nothing real pretty to show for the work at the Hotel Atwater.

But that work will likely keep the 1904-era building as sturdy for the next century as it has been in the past.

Crews from Gopher State Contractors were busy jacking up and shoring up the floor beams in the original rock-wall basement of the historic building on Monday to bring the structure up to new building code standards without compromising its historic value.

The reinforced base will increase the "structural integrity," of the building, said Shane Hagstrom, an Atwater City Councilman who has been a strong proponent of remodeling the Hotel Atwater -- a project that was given final approval by the City Council in November.

The renovation is "going well," Hagstrom said. "There have been no big surprises.

The Hotel Atwater, which had a restaurant on the main floor and tiny boarding rooms on the second floor during Atwater's heyday as an agricultural railroad town, has been vacant for years.

By July the renovation will be complete and the building will be ready to house the city's municipal office, Atwater Police Department and the town's library.

Besides the structural work in the basement, construction workers removed the lathe from the walls on the first and second floors, leaving a wooden skeleton of how the main floor will be divided into space for the three entities.

Some new interior walls will be added, but original heavy wooden doors that have already been refinished will be re-installed where possible.

Large windows that had been boarded up for years will be replaced to allow sunshine into the space where the library will be located. Some existing windows will be replaced with new ones that will look like the originals, but some of the original windows will be repaired in keeping with requirements of the state Historical Society. The city obtained $130,000 in grant money from the Historical Society for the project.

The second floor of the building will not be refurbished at this time, except for one room that will be used for storage of city documents, said Hagstrom, who hopes the large second-floor space will eventually be used as a youth recreation area.

The project also includes replacing much of the roof.

In the rear of the building, an old shabby entry where coal had been shoveled into the basement decades ago will be torn down and replaced with glass walls that will create a handicapped-accessible entrance.

Hagstrom said the project is progressing better than expected and said the final product will be something the town will be proud of.

"I think a lot of people are excited to see it and happy that we're moving forward," he said, adding that he was in college when the city first started discussing options for the Hotel Atwater, which had been owned by a private individual before the city obtained ownership.

"The end product will definitely be something to rally around," Hagstrom said.

It's not known what will happen with the town's old wooden depot, where the city office and police department are currently located. The city currently leases space at a commercial building for the library.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750