Renovated Hotel Atwater once again the centerpiece of downtown

A vision to restore the historic Hotel Atwater to its early glory days has been realized. After a decade in the dream stage, more than a year of reconstruction and $680,000 spent, the 1904-era brick building in do-wntown Atwater is once again the...

Back on the block
Atwater Librarian Lynda Behm stands by shelves of children's books in the library which moved recently to the new city hall, located in the historic Hotel Atwater. The city recently completed a $680,000 renovation of the 1904-era building. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

A vision to restore the historic Hotel Atwater to its early glory days has been realized. After a decade in the dream stage, more than a year of reconstruction and $680,000 spent, the 1904-era brick building in do-wntown Atwater is once again the centerpiece of Atlantic Avenue. Last week the Atwater city offices, police department and library moved into the renovated building and opened its doors to the public.

"Wonderful," is how City Clerk Goldie Smith describes the new city hall. "It really lifts the heart coming into this new place," she said.

"You stand a little taller. You stand a little prouder."

The building had been gutted and vacant for years before the city acquired it and, with the blessing and financial support of its residents, began the painstaking process of restoring it.

Because the city received grants from the Minnesota Historical Society, certain architectural features had to be preserved while at the same time accommodating modern technology and the needs of the public.


The project "meets or exceeds expectations," said Shane Hagstrom, an Atwater City Council member who was one of the key promoters of the project.

While standing in the sunlit main entry Monday afternoon, Hagstrom said people have been impressed with the final results.

"I love it," said Hagstrom, clearly pleased with the look and functionality of the building, and hopeful that the project and an open house and community-wide celebration scheduled for Dec. 10 will "get people excited about downtown Atwater again."

Earlier this year nearly a block of business buildings, including the hardware store, was destroyed in a fire, devastating the town's small commercial district.

The new city office, along with a nearly $2 million street and utility project on eight downtown streets, is giving the town a new look. News that a new hardware store will open is also helping breathe new life into town, Hagstrom said.

As part of the renovation of the old hotel, the roof was replaced, the basement was fortified, tuckpointing was completed on the exterior brickwork and a new heating and cooling system was installed,

The main floor space of the three-story building underwent an entire make-over, including uncovering two walls of windows that had been hidden under dark paneling.

The front entrance, framed by grand, original pillars on the outside, opens into a large foyer that features antique-style couches to create a sitting and reading area.


The city office and police department are located on one side of the foyer and the library is on the other.

A handicapped-accessible entrance is in the back of the building, sharing a new parking lot with Art Meyerson -- a local art venue and gallery. That entrance opens to another foyer and sitting area.

Both sitting areas have wireless Internet and will serve as an extension of the library, which will help make up for the tighter quarters there.

The library lost about 200 square feet of space when it left a rented building on U.S. Highway 12 to move to the new city hall.

Librarian Lynda Behm is still trying to figure out where all the books will go. Most are still in carefully labeled boxes stacked in a room that will serve as the city council meeting room.

Metal shelves are still on the library floor in pieces waiting to be assembled. "I'm just anxious to get all those boxes unpacked and on the shelves," said Behm, who began gradually moving into the new space at the end of October.

The children's book section is already in place, as is a row of public computers that are getting steady use.

This is the third time in six years the library has made a major move in Atwater. This one should be the last, Behm said.


The city hasn't decided what to do with the old depot where the city office and police had been housed for decades.

The building that had most recently been used by the library is in the process of being purchased. Elsie Kashmark said she's going to open a new hardware store there and also move her current business, the Peaceful Thymes Gifts and Garden Center, to that Highway 12 location. Her existing building is being sold for an insurance office.

Kashmark said the community is excited about the new business growth in town. She said it shows there is "hope."

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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