Archive for Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Tonganoxie’s bed and breakfast on target to open in October

October 2, 2002

After the Tonganoxie City Council approved a zoning request for Anna and Darlyn Hansen's bed and breakfast last week, Anna Hansen thanked the council members and said, "We hope to be the Cabela's of Tonganoxie."

The council's approval was just one more step along the way to next month's planned reopening of what has been known for more than 70 years as the "Almeda Hotel."

The Hansens, who purchased the property at auction in April, will reopen Tonganoxie's landmark bed and breakfast under the name of "Amanna n."

Anna Hansen said the new name represents the inn's past and present. The letter "A" stands for the Almeda Hotel, the "m" stands for Molly Myers, who started the hotel more than a century ago, and "anna" is Anna Hansen's first name. And, Hansen said, "n means passion, or ardor."

The hotel and former restaurant and bus stop, at 220 South Main St. in Tonganoxie, is said to have inspired Kansas playwright William Inge to pen "Bus Stop," a play made into a 1956 movie starring Marilyn Monroe.

'A huge project'

Darlyn Hansen said recently that the project turned out to be more extensive than he or his wife had anticipated.

"From a renovation standpoint this was a huge project," Hansen said. "Most people just roll their eyes and think you're crazy. If I were to do it again, I'd probably do it on a smaller scale."

Some of the hurdles were merely related to the building's age.

For instance, there was the wallpaper.

"In some areas we think there were about 15 or 16 layers, and in the upstairs between six and eight," Hansen said. "They loved their wallpaper."

In one corner of the dining room, behind a built-in cabinet, the room's original wallpaper, an off-white floral print, is still visible.

And, when possible, the Hansens tried to leave the original lathe and plaster walls in place.

"Some of the old plaster walls were still intact and some of them kind of fell apart," Hansen said. "You don't have a lot of choice."

In the kitchen, a bar built from granite stones had caused the kitchen floor to drop and had broken a supporting beam beneath. Hansen estimated the bar's weight in tons, not pounds. Because there was no crawl space below the bar, workers hand dug a 15-foot-long tunnel from the basement.

"It took three weeks to dig a tunnel back into the area to work in," Hansen said. "We knew it was not going to be an easy project that was a given but we didn't anticipate it taking that long."

The granite rocks that make up the bar match the granite rocks on the pillars and drinking fountain out front one pillar and fountain earlier in the summer took a hit from a passing motorist.

Even that, Hansen found a way to look at in a positive light.

A blessing in disguise

"The wood support inside was rotted out, so that was a mixed blessing that we found out structurally it was in pretty bad shape," Hansen said.

Then the Hansens learned that the water line to the drinking fountain had earlier broken. But the Hansens are now on their way to having that repaired.

Despite the vehicular accident, Hansen looks favorably on the inn's close proximity to the street: "Once in 80 years isn't too bad," he said. "That's pretty good odds."

Now, the Hansens are in the process of doing the finishing wallpapering, painting and sanding the floors and sewing curtains, with the help of Anna's mother, Ruth Gorrel, who lives in Centerville.

The hotel's upstairs five bedrooms and one bathroom have been transformed into two suites, one with a hot tub, one additional small bedroom and a total of three bathrooms.

The inn's main floor will have another bedroom and bathroom.

Hansen said they're at an encouraging place in their work and pointed to the Dumpsters filled with construction debris that had to be removed.

"Instead of carrying stuff out, we're carrying stuff in," he said.

Help appreciated

Whatever the result, Hansen said they will always be grateful to the workers and volunteers who have helped ready for the opening. Among the volunteers were Hansen's brother-in-law, Ron Beck, Omaha, who spent three weeks stripping wallpaper; George Flowers, who donated his carpentry skills; and numerous members of Heartland Church of the Nazarene, along with other friends and relatives.

The support has been ongoing. During the April auction, Anna Hansen said, church members circled her and Darlyn, saying silent prayers that they would be top bidders.

"They started out with prayer and they've been here all along with us," Darlyn said. " Different members have taken it on themselves to pray for us and helping the establishment in general."

Renovation-wise, Hansen said he thinks the project is nearly complete.

"Now we're trying to get it to where we can have some money coming in for a change," Hansen said. "Hopefully we'll get this thing buttoned up in the next few weeks."

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