Historic NM hotel closes 5 years after remodel
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — For sale: A bit of the Old West. The historic Eklund Hotel — complete with refurbished guest rooms, a saloon with bullet holes in the tin ceiling and a resident ghost — has closed its doors.
Worried townspeople in Clayton, population 2,100 in far northeastern New Mexico, are looking for someone to buy the downtown landmark and reopen it.
"It's been here since 1892. It's just the center of our town," banker Craig Reeves said.
The Eklund's closing comes just five years after completion of a $2.3 million renovation of the stately, three-story sandstone block building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The small hotel has been a popular stop for travelers, from nearby Texas and Oklahoma, in particular, as they shuttle back and forth to the cool mountains of New Mexico and Colorado.
"It's heartbreaking," said Brian Moore, a former state lawmaker and a Clayton grocery store owner. "It's especially a blow to downtown. It was our main restaurant, our main bar."
Kendyl Monroe, chairman of the Eklund Association, Incorporated — the group of mainly local investors that has owned the hotel since 1992 — said business shrank with the struggling economy and debt from the renovation was hefty.
"Where we are, at the moment, is right in the middle of the downturn," said Monroe, who grew up in Clayton and was a Wall Street lawyer for 34 years before returning to the area.
"That presumably will turn around some day ... but right now we're just suffering through the continuing decline," he said.
Monroe said the owners struggled to keep it open until this summer, typically the peak season, but couldn't. It closed April 24.
The economic slump has sharply hurt travel as consumers and businesses cut back on discretionary spending, said Patrick Ford, president of Lodging Econometrics in Portsmouth, N.H., who tracks the hotel industry.
"Smaller hotels, particularly hotels that don't have a nationally recognized brand, have tremendous difficulty in a down market," Ford said.
The Eklund's renovation created 26 rooms with private baths. The renovation was financed by a $2.16 million loan from the First National Bank in Clayton that was guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development business program.
The State Historic Preservation Office loaned an additional $200,000 for the project.
Reeves, the bank's president, won't say what's still owed on the bank loan, citing customer privacy considerations.
According to the historic preservation office, there's still $147,600, plus 3 percent interest, owed on the $200,000 state loan.
Clayton started in 1888 as a tent town for cattle drovers and then became a bustling railroad stop for the Fort Worth & Denver City Railroad halfway between Amarillo, Texas, and Trinidad, Colo.
Swedish immigrant Carl Eklund developed the hotel, which dates to 1892 but took on its current, three-story appearance in 1905.
Local lore says the Eklund has a ghost named Irene, although Monroe said not much is known about her.
"But when the renovation was done a few years ago and we had a lot of workmen on the site, there were some who thought they observed Irene in the stairwell and became a little frightened," Monroe said.
The hotel isn't officially on the market yet. The bank is still in the foreclosure process.
"The goal is to find somebody that ... wants to be part of our town and will want to buy it or lease it," Reeves said. "They would receive a tremendous amount of support from the community."
The Eklund Hotel: http://www.theeklund.com/
Clayton, N.M., tourism: http://www.claytonnewmexico.net/
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