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Answer Man: Is it time for the Kahler sign to go?

February 24, 2019

Dear Answer Man: Every day when my wife and I look at the Rochester skyline, with its imposing Mayo Clinic buildings and hotels, our gaze is rudely interrupted by the tacky, garish Kahler Hotel sign, a jarring note in an otherwise beautiful scene.

My question is, what can be done about removing this eyesore? Everybody knows where the Kahler is. We don’t need this ugly reminder. — Ear of corn water tower, Si. Kahler sign, No.

Dear Kahler No: Your best bet would be pulling out your checkbook and seeing if you can find a number high enough to purchase the building.

Property rights make it difficult for someone who doesn’t appreciate the iconic sign to force its removal.

The sign on the city’s oldest hotel has been part of the Rochester skyline for decades, offering a red-neon, blazing reminder of how important the city’s hospitality industry has been to its top employer.

The Kahler opened in 1921 as a hybrid that combined features of a hotel and hospital, with three operating rooms and several laboratories. The hospital functions were phased out in 1953, but for years afterward a nursing service offered guests a unique form of room service: The option of an enema without ever leaving the hotel.

The hospitality legacy, however, shows no sign of disappearing. The Kahler is undergoing a $30 million renovation.

That would indicate the company is expecting new visitors, so it’s likely not everyone seeking the downtown destination will know where it is, as you suggest.

Additionally, with Destination Medical Center expected to attract a growing workforce and more visitors on a yearly basis, it’s not safe to assume any significant landmark is known to all in the community. There are new eyes coming to town every day.

With more and more tall buildings emerging downtown, it’s important to have iconic bits of skyline, including the Kahler sign and the Plummer Building, that visually remind us of the city’s past.

I’ve referred to the Kahler as the granddaddy of the city’s hotels in the past. As such, I’d argue that it deserves to shine a bit brighter than the newfangled buildings that surround it.