Archive for Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Almeda Hotel: Moving forward

May 1, 2002

Delmar Tinberg settled onto a shady bench Sunday afternoon as he watched the last of the Almeda Hotel furnishings leave the property.

The two-day auction had ended, and a house full of items, some which appeared as if they might have been original to the century-old hotel, had been sold. Auction-goers packed the items into car trunks and pick-up trucks for the journey to their new homes.

Tinberg, whose uncle, Richard Tinberg, and aunt Almeda Tinberg, operated the hotel as a bed and breakfast from the early 1980s until 1996, remembers the hotel from his childhood days.

He points to the high rounded cement curbs in the back yard and alley curbs built to guide buses as they made their daily rounds at the motel and picked up and dropped off passengers by the back door. In those days, the old hotel had a captive audience as the highway ran through Tonganoxie.

Because today's highway traffic bypasses downtown Tonganoxie, most of the drivers on U.S. Highway 24-40 don't know that Tonganoxie has a charming downtown, a swimming pool said to have been the first pool built in Kansas, and an old hotel where honeymooners spent their wedding night, and where the top general from World War I, as well as a future United States president, once dined.

It is encouraging that there was not one, but three serious bidders for the real estate, which George Warren auctioned Saturday afternoon. Ultimately, it was Anna Hansen's bid that stopped them all.

And it will be Anna Hansen and her husband, Darlyn, who will uncover the old hotel, who will bring it back to life. Hansen said she hopes the hotel will be not only a bed and breakfast, but also a community center where brides and grooms can give their first toast, where club members can gather for their meetings and where those hopeful of stepping back in time, if only for a night or two, can climb the steps, suitcase in hand, and turn down the covers.

In the future, Anna Hansen said, she hopes to install a commercial kitchen and open a public restaurant in the hotel's original dining room.

Since last summer, Linda Freeman, a great-niece of Richard Tinberg, has helped her cousin, Connie Hutchinson, and other family members and friends prepare for the auction. In sifting through the furnishings and miscellaneous items, she gained an appreciation for the hotel's history. She wants to come back, but she's hoping her next visit won't entail as much work.

"Connie and I have teased Anna," Freeman said. "We say when you get the bed and breakfast up and running, can we come here and stay here the first night?"

Family members aren't the only ones who care. Warren said the auction attracted a crowd not just because of the items listed on the sale bill.

For instance, Delores (Bateson) Edmonds was thrilled with her $11 purchase of a sign advertising Almeda's beauty shop.

"That's where I got the first perm that I can remember getting," said Edmonds, who was born in 1943.

Edmonds' childhood curls had been set by electric curlers dangling from a contraption that looked like a cross between and octopus and an electric chair.

"It scared me to death," Edmonds recalled.

(The perm machine sold for a couple of dollars on Saturday.)

George Warren, auctioneer, said Edmonds' interest was typical.

"There was interest both in the historical stuff and the nostalgic," Warren said. "Really, this is one of the last places like this in town."

And, as Delmar Tinberg visited with a friend on the shady bench, a dog barked down the street, and cars rolled along Main Street, in some ways things were much the same as they were in the heyday of the old hotel. Indeed, in the quiet spring of a Sunday afternoon, the auction said and done, one could almost hear the community breathe a collective sigh of relief the Almeda Hotel will remain.

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