Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Claremore Leaders Rush to Raise Funds to Complete Hotel Project

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Claremore Leaders Rush to Raise Funds to Complete Hotel Project

Article excerpt

CLAREMORE -- Lace-like curtains of cobwebs hang across the lobby windows at Hotel Will Rogers.

Stains and patches of peeling plaster haunt the building's six vacant stories. The chandelier is missing from its chain.

The air smells stale from dust and mold and pigeons that took over the 66-year-old landmark once known as a glitzy stopover for Oklahoma governors and guests like Bob Hope. "Somebody described it as the rich man's playground," said Barbra Pool, vice president of the Rogers County Historical Society. But now the Hotel Will Rogers -- named for Claremore's famed cowboy humorist -- could undergo a renaissance as housing for the elderly. Fund-raisers still need to collect about $200,000 in donations to complete the $2.5 million overhaul. Advocates for the building say they must find the money by about Nov. 1 or risk losing the tax credits and government funds that would make the renovations possible. "We're just so close," Pool said. "If we don't raise $200,000, we lose it all. We're just hoping the name of Will Rogers will spark something." The historical society paid $1 to buy the hotel from Tulsa banker and oil and gas man George Kaiser in 1994. It had closed three years earlier. The new owners said they pumped 6 feet of water out of the basement and removed 700 pigeons that had invaded the premises. Prison inmates helped board up the brick structure. The historical society then teamed up with MetroPlains Development Inc. of St. Paul, Minn., and Wa-Ro-Ma Tri-County Community Action Foundation Inc. to locate the state and federal funding, which must be spent by December 1997. Renovating the Hotel Will Rogers will take about one year. "People are starting to realize we're serious about this," said John Cary, chairman of the hotel project. "The sooner we get it ($200,000), the faster we start. …

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