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El Garces may reopen as soon as March as a depot February 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Preservation, Railroad.
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The historic El Garces Hotel in Needles, Calif., may reopen as early as late March as an intermodal transportation facility — but not as a hotel — after a long rehabilitation, according to a recent report by the Needles Daily Star.

According to the newspaper:

Linda Kidd, city council woman and project committee member, said the hope is for the project to be completed by early April. Because renovations are on schedule or even a little early, it may be completed by the end of March. [...]

Kidd said moving forward into 2014, the finishing touches will be put on the El Garces. Painting inside and out should begin this week.

Electrical will be put inside soon, she said. Crews are working to put in Internet and phone lines for the building. Drywall for the office area will begin soon also, she added.

The city is also working with the Friends of El Garces to get the fountain area complete, she said.

Lots of photos of El Garces’ ongoing renovations may be seen here.

El Garces opened in 1908, halted operations as a Harvey House in 1949, and closed entirely in 1988.  A group, Friends of El Garces, persuaded the city to buy the property in 1999, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. El Garces sits next to an older alignment of Route 66.

Allan Affeldt, savior of the historic La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., set his sights years ago on taking over ownership of El Garces and restoring it. But, according to an August report in the Daily Star:

It was determined by the Federal Transit Administration that because public funding was used for construction, ownership has to remain with the city. Because of that determination and without being able to find additional funding, Affeldt stepped away from the project.

Since then the city has moved forward with completing the transportation facility. Semione said the plans are to complete the bathrooms and what used to be called the formal dining room. Its new purpose is to function as a multi-purpose space for meetings. she continued.

In an email Friday, Affeldt said:

 The City of Needles was unable to transfer title to me (in spite of our agreement and all my investment) so i had to walk away from the project.
Of course i wish them well, but it seems the prospect of a hotel and restaurant at El Garces is over. When i withdrew they abandoned most of our detailed planning – a terrible waste but nothing i could do.

Affeldt said in a Facebook comment in late 2013:

… [W]e had to stop working on el Garces years ago when the city could not sell it to us. It was really a shame since it’s very unlikely anyone else would restore that building. But as usual I’ve found something much better!

Just days ago, Affeldt announced he would try to buy La Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M. — another historic Harvey House.

I’m disappointed El Garces won’t be a hotel anytime soon. However, it’s also very encouraging it’s finally going to reused, and the facility — based on the recent photos — looks better than it has in decades.

(Image of El Garces in 2010 by Don Barrett via Flickr)

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