Some have labeled it an eyesore fit only for demolition while others are rallying to save the historic West Hotel in downtown George West, which was built in 1916 and is located two blocks from the Live Oak County Courthouse.
Glynis Strause, who is on the city of George West’s Building Standards Commission, is helping to organize a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. June 7 at the Dobie West Theatre to brainstorm about ways to save and renovate the stately three story structure (including a basement) and also ideas for the best use of the property.
A small group was given a tour of the old hotel, located in the 100 block of Houston St., on May 22 to get an idea of the state of the building and what will be involved in revitalizing it.
Strause said she has turned to someone with significant experience in downtown revitalization efforts elsewhere for input on how to proceed.
“Robert Oliver has been the catalyst for all the renovations that were done in Cuero,” she said. “He has been really diligent about preserving and restoring old buildings and he has a great vision for community development.
“Being able to do something with this building would be good for the community, good for our theater and for the restaurant (George West Steakhouse). We are hoping to get some ideas of resources that might be available, potential uses and ways to make it happen.”
Strause plans to organize a steering committee and is looking for people to get involved. Input for any interesting residents is welcome, she said, but she is especially hoping “to get some younger people involved” in the planning process.
She is also hoping to find a long term use for the building, along with investors who are interested in helping to transform downtown George West.
“It will take a lot of money to make all the repairs, but we want to make sure everything is done right,” Strause said. “Robert Oliver says if you don’t do it the best way, you’ll always regret it.”
The West Hotel is among the oldest buildings in George West – older than the courthouse which was completed in 1920 – and helped provide temporary housing for railroad workers who came through town in the early days after developer George West established the community.
Strause said the hotel was originally submitted to the building standards committee to consider for demolition, “but neither I nor anyone else on the commission wanted to do that. Everybody on the committee said ‘absolutely not.’”
With the building given a stay of execution, so to speak, the next step was to come up with a way to save it from further deterioration, to reverse the process and to turn it into a showcase for the community.
“At this stage it is an eyesore and it can be dangerous, but there is so much great potential there,” Strause said. “The Dobie West Theatre was also in pretty bad shape when we took on that renovation project, and now it’s a place that the community can see live performance and vintage movies and really be proud of. We are hoping for something special for this building, too.”
Strause said she and other community members want to see the old hotel renovated and put to good use.
“What the building will eventually be used for is important,” she said. “That hasn’t been decided yet because we want to get input for other people. I can think of several ideas but someone else may have an idea that would be perfect for it.
“We want people to come up with possibilities so it can be the best it could possibly be, and to think about what it would look like would look like when it’s completed and what it would take to totally transform the 100 block of Houston Street if we could do it.”
A nonprofit organization is planned to raise money to purchase and renovate the building and will have a steering committee to help determine what will be needed to get the job done. She said a possible model for the organization is the Karnes County Historical Society, which helps to maintain several historic buildings in Helena.
“How long will it take?” Strause asked. “As long as it needs to take. Just like the theater, it’s an ongoing project.
“I don’t want it to be demolished and we don’t want its condition to continue to decline, but this is a really important thing for the area. What’s good for 100 Houston Street is good for George West and Live Oak County. We are looking for the right vision and it can really be something special.”