Archive for Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A labor of love

After a year’s transformation, Tonganoxie bed and breakfast now open

April 16, 2003

Molly Meyers would have been proud.

After a year's preparation and months of work, the Almeda Hotel, Tonganoxie's century-old bed and breakfast, has reopened.

The first owner was Molly Myers, a widowed mother who in the late 1800s operated a hotel and restaurant out of her home on Tonganoxie's Main Street. From about 1930 until the present, the business was known as the Almeda Hotel, and was operated until several years ago by Almeda and Richard Tinberg.

Darlyn and Anna Hansen, who purchased the property at an April 2002 auction, are completing their renovation project. Soon, the neon lights on the hotel sign, long dimmed, will light up in a different configuration. The new sign will read "Amanna Ãlan Hotel."

In recognition of the hotel's century-old nostalgic past, The Hansens devised the name for three of its owners. The first "A" stands for Almeda Tinberg, the "M" stands for Molly Myers, and "Anna" is for Anna Hansen.

Carlene Myers was married to the late Larry Myers, a grandson of Molly, the hotel's original owner. Myers has kept up with the hotel's renovation, and even shared photographs of the building's original interior with the Hansens.

"I'm really happy for them and I hope it will be a good business proposition for them," Myers said. "Tonganoxie needs that -- it's just a piece of history."

More than wallpaper

At the hotel today, room after rambling room brims with the past. From the original woodwork to the granite-fronted kitchen bar to the antiques the Hansens have collected, nostalgia abounds.

This is what the Hansens, who have lived in Tonganoxie for 14 years, intended.

"When Anna met Almeda 14 years ago, she said if she was ever interested in selling it, she would be interested in trying to buy it," Darlyn Hansen said. "That was her dream for all those years -- to be able to keep the place with a bed and breakfast and open it up as a reception hall."

But most people would have shied off because of the work involved. This was a job that needed more than paint and wallpaper.

While continuing their full-time professions, the Hansens, along with carpenter Tim Flowers, some part-time helpers and a host of volunteers, the Hansens have resurrected the building.

For instance, in the kitchen the weight of a granite-fronted bar that Hansen estimated at a couple of tons had broken the support beam below. To hoist up the floor with beams, a tunnel first had to be dug -- by hand. The tunnel wound up being more than 20 feet long and four feet wide. The dirt had to be carried, bucket by bucket, up the basement stairs and out of the house.

For Hansen, who said he grew up digging tunnels for fun, the work was reminiscent of his childhood.

It took three weeks to complete the dig.

Right on target

Overall, the hotel's renovation met Hansen's expectations.

"It was pretty much right on target," Hansen said. "We started work on June 27 and had the bulk of everything ready, and the reception hall was open by December."

But the costs were greater than anticipated.

"We went way over," Hansen said.

In the fall, Hansen said, he realized he was down to his last $2,000. And there was still work to do.

"I really didn't know where the money would come from," he said.

The family considered their options -- one of which was to sell their home and live in the hotel.

"That was the worst-case scenario," Hansen said, laughing. "I would have had a nice 5,000-square-foot house that we could entertain a lot in."

But help came -- in the form of an inheritance from his mother. With that, the Hansens soon completed the work on the house.

Although Hansen said his mother wasn't exactly thrilled about his venture into the bed and breakfast business, his sister, Sharolyn Beck, and her husband Ron Beck, who live in Omaha, were.

Ron Beck spent three weeks last summer scraping layers of wallpaper off the dining room's walls.

And Sharolyn helped in another way.

"My sister has a real love for the property," Hansen said. "She was insistent that we take a lot of the things from our mother's house to use in the hotel."

Molly would be proud

The hotel now includes three guest rooms, each with a private bath. Rent on the rooms starts at $85 per day. Each room includes a coffeemaker, toaster and small refrigerator. And, Hansen said, continental breakfasts are available.

Dining in the hotel's spacious hall is an experience in itself. The Hansens use linen tablecloths and napkins, coffee is poured from silver samovars and guests sit on plush velvet-covered chairs at tables adorned with bouquets of fresh flowers.

In December, the Hansens opened the dining hall, holding several holiday events. Carlene Myers said the hotel's renovated interior and the array of foods served at a recent tea reminded her of early photos of the hotel.

"It's beautiful," Myers said. "Her tables are just laden with all kinds of delicacies. Molly would be proud."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.