Travelers hotel status on hold, Lourdes named potential landmark

February 28, 2019

Portions of the former Lourdes High School were deemed potential landmarks Tuesday, but the verdict is still out on the former Travelers Hotel.

Both Mayo Clinic-owned properties were slated for consideration by Rochester’s Heritage Preservation Commission, but time ran out on discussion of the former hotel, part of which dates back to approximately 1920.

The continued discussion will likely determine the next steps for Mayo Clinic, which purchased the vacant hotel at 426 Second St. SW for $1.7 million in 2001.

Erin Sexton, Mayo’s director of community engagement, said no specific plan exists for the building, but demolition is expected.

The property has lingered in a challenged status since the Rochester City Council approved an updated Heritage Preservation ordinance in 2017.

As a result, a demolition permit could have been issued at any point without added historic review, but Sexton said Mayo Clinic wanted to respect the process.

“We thought it was appropriate to come here and make our case,” she said.

She indicated Mayo Clinic will likely appeal if the commission opts to put the former hotel on the city’s list of potential landmarks.

Mayo Clinic’s case was laid out Tuesday by architectural historian Charlene Roice, of Hess Roice Historical Consultants, which was hired by Mayo Clinic to review the property.

She noted the former hotel is actually two buildings that were combined in the 1980s. Roice said that change was significant enough to reset the clock for historic consideration.

“Architecturally, there has been quite a bit of compromise,” she told the Historic Preservation Commission.

Local historic preservation advocate Kevin Lund disagrees.

“These buildings, as neglected and gray-washed as they are, are part of our story,” he said of the building that includes the former Reiter Apartments, which were built in 1920, and the former Beverly Hotel, which was built 11 years later.

Julius Reiter, who built the Reiter Apartments, was a five-term Rochester mayor and one-time vice presidential candidate. Billy Friedell, a Rochester hotelier who built the Beverly Hotel in 1931, was a circus musician who came to the city for medical treatment and stayed as part of the business community.

Lund said both men had stories that should be preserved at part of the city’s fabric.

The commission opted to postpone a decision on the Travelers Hotel, but they were able to agree that the original portion of the former Lourdes High School is a potential landmark.

That status was not opposed by Mayo Clinic. However, Tim Siegfried, division chairman of facilities for Mayo, said two additions to the school shouldn’t be considered historic.

Roice differed from Mayo Clinic’s stance. While she agreed a mid-’80s addition is too new to be considered historic, she said a 1958 addition, which made room for more classrooms, would pass the test to be considered historic.

While the commission unanimously agreed the newest portion of the building at 621 W. Center St. shouldn’t be considered a potential landmark, it split 5-2 to put the status on the 1958 addition.

Commission member Tom Meilander said the addition, which was needed as a result of the baby boom, had historic significance for the city and neighborhood, even if it wasn’t as architecturally ornate as the original building.

“It’s a boring 1958 building, but that’s the way it was,” he said.

Commission member Trent Homard, who was joined by Vice Chairman Mark Carlson in voting against the status change, cited the lack of architectural significance in his opposition.

Commission member Gail Eadie, a Mayo Clinic employee, abstained from all discussion and voting on both buildings.

Commission Chairwoman Christine Schultze noted the commission’s decision isn’t necessarily an ending point for the Lourdes building and the addition.

“The potential list is only a list deemed feasible for further review,” she said.

Buildings on the city’s list of potential landmarks are subject to added review if owners seek a demolition permit, but the commission could also seek broader reviews to nominate buildings on the list as official city landmarks.