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Posted October 24, 2012 | comments 3 Comments

Rehab work on historic Taylor Hotel to start Monday

By Sally Voth

After years of being an eyesore in the heart of Old Town Winchester, the historic Taylor Hotel's renaissance is set to begin Monday.

That's when renovation and partial demolition will begin on the 165-year-old brick structure on North Loudoun Street, according to a news release from the city of Winchester.

The latest incarnation of the historic site will be home to a restaurant and pub, commercial space, five condos and outdoor entertainment venue, said Jim Deskins, executive director of the Economic Development Authority of Winchester.

"We've been trying to get this thing off and going, it's probably been a couple of years struggling," he said Wednesday. "We took title to the property in June."

The EDA successfully applied for a $1 million loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the approval process took some time, Deskins said.

"We're here now at the finish line, which is really the starting line," he said. "It's a very big project for downtown, and it's taken every bit of a couple years to get us to this point, and it will take about a year to get it built.

"Hopefully by next December we will be completed with the work and have a wonderful new asset in downtown. It will be restored to exactly the way it was [originally] in terms of the exterior."

According to a report prepared for the Winchester Office of Economic Redevelopment and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' Office of Review and Compliance by architectural historian Anne Stuart Beckett, the hotel dates to 1847, and a theater was added around 1921.

The theater portion is collapsed and unsafe, and will be the site of the entertainment space.

Even before the Taylor Hotel was built, there was an inn and tavern consisting of two log buildings on the site, the report states. These were bought by Bushrod Taylor in 1830, it states.

According to the report, Taylor, a slave owner, farmer and businessman, was instrumental in getting the economically crucial Valley Pike improved. The tavern and inn he owned burned down in 1846, and the Taylor Hotel was built in its place.

Not long after the hotel was complete, complications from a toe infection killed Taylor, and George W. Seevers, one-time Winchester mayor, bought it, according to the report. Both sides of the Civil War used the hotel as offices and a hospital, and it was even Stonewall Jackson's headquarters at one time, it states.

In the early 20th century, the hotel became a five and dime store, the report states, with the Colonial Theatre soon joining it. Several additions were made, and other parts torn down.

More recently, it has housed the CFW Communication call center, but that was gone in 2002, and the building was then empty. The report states the large, mostly flat theater roof collapsed, leaving just the original hotel and a fly loft dating to the 1920s. The City Council declared the building blighted in 2010.

Deskins said historic tax credits are helping with some of the funding. He said a restaurant kitchen and pub will be in the "English basement," so called because only half of the level is below grade, with the restaurant on the main floor, which is a half-floor above grade. He declined to identify the proposed restaurant before a lease is in place.

The demolition and structural stabilization is expected to be done by February, Deskins said.

"We're taking down what's been falling down, and then what will remain we're stabilizing that," he said.

By the end of the project's first phase, a "cold, dry shell," will be in place. Phase two will involve electrical, heating and cooling, and finish work, Deskins said.

The rehabilitation work will shut down the pedestrian walkway between the Braddock Street parking garage and the pedestrian walking mall starting Monday, according to the city's release. Starting Oct. 31, Indian Alley will be closed to through traffic between Boscawen and Piccadilly streets from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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