Historic Nelsonville Eagles building may become hotel

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By Larry Di Giovanni Messenger Staff Journalist




NELSONVILLE — The Athens County land bank’s first potential property purchase and sale to a potential buyer may end up being historic in two different ways, if it proceeds, with downtown Nelsonville becoming the possible beneficiary.

The land bank’s Board of Directors is preparing to tour several abandoned properties in Nelsonville on April 11. This tour will be in the company of city officials, Athens County Treasurer Bill Bias and Nelsonville City Manager Charles Barga both confirmed Thursday.

The first property purchased by the land bank will make history. In addition, the land bank is giving serious consideration to making the historical Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) Lodge No. 391 on West Washington Street — built in 1903 — the land bank’s first purchased property, according to Bias and Barga.

New Nelsonville City Council Vice President Daniel Sherman let fellow council members know during Monday’s regular meeting that his intention is to become the land bank’s “end user” — meaning that he would buy the Eagles building through the land bank when it is ready for sale.

Sherman, a construction foreman with Gutknecht Construction, said he would like to turn the upper level into an eight-room hotel serving Public Square visitors. The upper level contains a club room/ballroom, bar and stage. The downstairs area included four storefronts along West Washington Street. Sherman is highly familiar with historically significant restoration projects on Public Square, having been Gutknecht’s project foreman for the recent Stuart’s Opera House renovations.

But Sherman, who was selected Monday by unanimous vote to be Council’s new vice president, acknowledged that he has his substantial work to do should the property acquisition be approved. The FOE building was condemned by the Nelsonville Fire Department last year for safety reasons. A fence was placed around it after the back wall starting to collapse due to years of water damage.

Former Nelsonville City Council President Kevin Dotson has previously stated that just stabilizing the shell of the building — its walls and foundation — would cost an estimated $80,000. The Nelsonville Chamber of Commerce had paid an architect and engineer to perform an estimate.

 Sherman said he would pursue any and all grants that might provide funding for building restoration, including grants specifically for historical projects. If he acquires the FOE building, Sherman said he would also carry an appropriate level of property insurance.

One issue Sherman would not have to face is the issue of back property taxes owed. Through March 5, the back taxes owed on the FOE property are nearly $9,400, according to the treasurer’s office.

“It’s my understanding that if you buy a property through the land bank, you get free and clear title with no taxes or liens involved,” Barga said.

Dotson and Sherman both said that among the items the FOE building has going in its favor are that the front of the building is still in good shape and has maintained its historic, visual appeal for well over a century. In addition, the basement and foundation are in relatively good shape.

The building is also part of Historic Downtown Nelsonville, which is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.