The building known as the Brunswick, once a landmark Lindsborg hotel and now a shabby lament for the city’s nuisance code, is to be sold by online auction that begins Thursday, July 19.The two-story brick building, at Main and Grant down-town, was built in 1887 with all the proper flourishes of Romanesque revival – the tower, the curves and corner angles, the accents along roof and eaves, the copper, the stained glass and those high windows just so, to catch the light. Now it sags, neglected and overgrown, beaten.
Neglect is a virus against the glory of any great building. Over time ‒ in this case, more than 130 years ‒ the luster fades and indifference creeps in. The Brunswick is a stark reminder that the care and feeding of an eminent structure is, in the long run, more critical than the initial cost to build it.
McCurdy Auction of Wichita is managing the online bid-ding, which will run through July 31. There is no required minimum.
Prospective buyers are warned that the property has strings attached, strong ones. A municipal building code violation proceeding is pending against the property. Current con-cerns are for now limited to the building exterior: holes in the roof, windows broken or boarded or missing, numerous sections without bricks, or mortar, or both, all and more a possible threat to the structural integrity of the building.
Inside? The City has requested access. So far, not granted. Plumbing, wiring and structural integrity are of keen interest to building inspectors.
The property owners, Eric Monder and Kathy Patterson, have moved to North Carolina; the building has been unoccupied since November 2016, more than a year and a half. The taxes have been paid.
In recent years, a few people were interested in buying the Brunswick. Some made announcements of a sale, or potential sale, only to have them fizzle out. Even the slightly curious were set back when professionals had a look and told them what it might cost, first to bring the building up to code, and then to make the place appealing to a renter, to a guest, or even to someone passing by.
On September 11, 2002, for example, the sale of the Brunswick was announced and 19 days later the sale was cancelled. The building owners, Mark and Karla Fleming, of Formoso in east Jewell County, said the hotel’s potential buyer had withdrawn the offer. A group headed by Carl Allam, a retired central Kansas oilman and land owner, had made the offer.
Allam, a longtime Hutchinson resident, had said the sale was subject to financing. “A deal is never done until the check clears the bank,” he said.
Mark and Karla, and Karla’s parents, John and Karen Ross, Mankato, had purchased the hotel in 1990 from the former Farmers State Bank downtown. Two years later the Flemings purchased the Ross’s interest in the facility and acquired full ownership.
In 2003, Patterson and Molder bought the Brunswick, and for a while labored to reestablish the building as a place of community activity. In one room, with popcorn and easy chairs for viewers, they offered (pre-Netflix) showings of classic movies on the big screen. Other rooms were for meetings and receptions. In April 2004 and 2005, the Brunswick was host site for the final four competitions in the national intercollegiate chess championships.
Then came Netflix, expanded cable television moved in and the chess championships moved on. But the Brunswick continued to need care, maintenance, and improvements, and carried an obligation for property taxes – a combination of considerable cost. The building’s exterior began to fade, and the place began to look shaggy, unkempt. For a few years, scores of feral cats roamed into the building and at times it was noticeably odorous. The cats were sent away, some carpets were removed, the building continued to deteriorate.
The Brunswick was built by a stock company as a three-story structure with 32 rooms, display facilities for salesmen and a large dining room. It was advertised as one of the finest hotels in Kansas. E.M. (Ed) Weddle was manager and director until his retirement in 1946.
The Weddle’s lived next to the hotel in what is now part of the Raymer Society Red Barn Studio and Museum. The Weddle’s’ daughter, Ramona, was born in the hotel and later married Lester Raymer, the celebrated Lindsborg artist. Raymer died in 1991.
In his book, “Smoky Valley People,” the late Emory Lindquist wrote: “… the spacious and luxurious Brunswick … was one of the finest hotels in Kansas. A fancy coach with tassels dangling from the top was pulled by two fine horses as guests were met and brought to the railroad stations.”
During the early years of the Brunswick, retailers would come to the hotel’s display room to select merchandise for their stores. Traveling salesmen enjoyed the hotel and its food.
Celebrities who visited the hotel included many of the divas who performed in Ling Auditorium at Bethany College, and guest soloists for Bethany Oratorio Society performances of the Messiah.
Theodore Roosevelt, as a presidential candidate in 1904, made Lindsborg and the Brunswick a stop on his campaign tour.
The hotel decades later were purchased by Bob and Doris Elliott, who removed the third floor of the building and created a restaurant and private club. The place became a popular gathering place for tourists and area residents.
Before his 2002 plans fell through, Allam said he wanted to refurbish the Brunswick restaurant and rent the hotel’s nine guest rooms “by the month.”
Allam said he had been born in 1930 in Lamar, Ark., and graduated from Haven Rural High School in 1949. He served in the Army and returned to the Hutchinson area in 1956.
“I managed oil leases and traveled in your parts (northern McPherson County) and I used to buy gasoline where the Hemslöjd is now located,” Allam had said. “And there were times when I used to drool at that hotel (Brunswick).”
As did a lot of people.
Today, as it is auctioned off, the old place brings little but a caution. The Brunswick must now meet the time clock for a new owner and building code enforcement, not the clock at the depot. The gleaming old passenger trains, the guests, the fine dining, the beauty and fun of the place, are long departed.
The question today is whether the building or a replica, or something else, is possible for the southwest corner at Grant and Main. If not, what then?