|By Russ Keen, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
June 23, 2004 - Ninety-five years after it accepted its first guests, a refurbished downtown hotel in Aberdeen is on the verge of re-opening after standing vacant since the 1980s.
It's commonly known as the Herman Hotel, its original name. But the facility at 120 S. Lincoln St. will probably be called either the Rogers Suites or the Rogers Hotel, another of its names down through the years since being built in 1909.
The words "Rogers Hotel" appear faintly on the exterior of the building's east side. That's why the new owner, John Aman of Aberdeen, wants to call the restored facility by that name. He said he intends to restore the ghost lettering as well.
In 1914, a man with the last name of Rogers bought the hotel from Herman A. Olson, the original owner, Aman said. Olson was one of Aberdeen's first aldermen, Aman said.
After ascending stairs to the one-level, second-story hotel, visitors enter corridors reminiscent of a century ago. Light fixtures along the hallways evoke the period, as do squares of coffered tin on the ceiling and horizontal, thin strips of woodwork that separate the walls into upper and lower sections. Carpeting is being laid this week, and furniture is arriving.
Jyl Aman, John's wife, selected the furnishings and fixtures. "She did a great job," Aman said.
Suites are situated on both sides of two long hallways. That means the rooms between the two corridors have no windows. But seven original skylights that had been covered with roofing material once again bring sunlight to the rooms between the halls.
All 48 of the original, wooden doors, as well as the glass transoms above them, are still in place. Most wood inside the suites is original, Aman said. The hotel originally consisted of 48 sleeping rooms. Today there are 12 one-bedroom suites and two efficiency units. All 14 have kitchens and bathrooms. The one-bedroom suites feature a separate living-room area.
The renovation, which Aman said approaches $1 million, is expected to be finished in about two weeks, he said. The first lodgers are registered for July 11-12.
The hotel's specialty will be serving businesses that bring groups to town. It has a major contract with Expetec Technology Services of Aberdeen, for example, to lodge people who come for training to operate Expetec franchises. Training sessions last three weeks, and are held monthly, Aman said. Expetec services computers nationwide.
It has been a challenge for the company to schedule lodging for trainees, especially when sports tournaments come to Aberdeen, Aman said. "That's what drove this idea," he said of the restoration that began last September. Expetec headquarters are about a block from the hotel.
The renovation project is approved as a tax incremental finance district. That means property taxes generated by the improvements are used to pay off the project's debt. Property taxes on the assessed value before the improvements, however, continue to go to the city, Aberdeen School District and Brown County. Once the project is paid for, the property will be taxed at a rate that reflects the improvements.
The hotel has always been a one-level, second-floor operation. The original brick building was designed to house stores on the ground level and in the basement and small sleeping rooms on the second story, Aman said. He bought the entire building.
The second-floor hotel closed sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and had been used for cold storage since.
"It was in bad disrepair," Aman said.
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