|By Kay Ledbetter, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 25, 2004 - CLAYTON, N.M. -- The gun shots that left bullet holes in the Eklund Hotel ceiling won't be returning, but the beds have.
The Eklund Hotel will officially re-open with a ribbon cutting and rededication at 4 p.m. Monday in the lobby of the hotel at 15 Main St. in downtown Clayton.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan for $2.6 million, along with $200,000 from the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office and persistence on the part of the local folks, brought the hotel back into operation.
The hotel was built by Carl Eklund in 1892, according to Ernie Watson, with the USDA rural development program in Albuquerque, N.M. It started as a shop with rooms for rent on the second floor.
A saloon was added in 1894, and in 1898, a dining room and kitchen were added. A third story and balcony were added in 1905, Watson said.
The restaurant and saloon have stayed open in continuous business, but the hotel operations were suspended in 1973 and the building essentially sat half empty, he said.
Kendyl Monroe, chairman of Eklund Association, Incorporated, said the hotel was built in Clayton's early days as a railroad town and it catered to railroad passengers.
"It's built of natural stone and is really quite elegant appearing on the exterior," Monroe said.
He said the Eklund Association, Incorporated was formed by 19 individuals, most residents of Union County, in 1992 specifically to acquire the building, continue the restaurant operation and restore the hotel operation, Monroe said.
Two other organizations had tried before and failed, Monroe said.
When the association took over, the restaurant operations were marginal at best, so that occupied everyone's attention for some time, Monroe said.
Things started turning around a few years ago and it began generating the cash flow needed for the market surveys, designs and to apply for financing, Monroe said.
"Obtaining financing became a difficult thing to do because of the isolated location. The commercial institutions wouldn't touch it, regardless of the numbers," he said.
The association went through the USDA Rural Development program and it accommodated all the needs, including when the project went over budget, Monroe said.
"When we got in the process of bidding construction, most contractors were uninterested because of the location. We did get a New Mexico contractor, but the bid was considerably higher than the estimated cost and we had to go back to USDA," he said.
"It was a very long process. The completion of construction has been delayed for a multitude of reasons and the opening has been delayed, but this is a good time of the year as the tourist season is beginning to pick up," Monroe said.
And the hotel is ready, all 26 rooms. The halls are a little misleading, because all the doors to the original 42 rooms with community bathrooms were left in place, but the rooms were expanded and now each rooms has its own bathroom.
He said the rooms were redesigned to accommodate current tastes and there's modern amenities such as coffee makers, televisions and clock radios in the rooms, but it has been a historic preservation project.
Eklund Hotel manager Phedra McDowell said renovation work began in June and was completed April 5, then it opened for business that night. The first night, it had about 12 guests.
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(c) 2004, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.