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Old Hotel Art Gallery celebrates 45th anniversary

by RACHAL PINKERTON
Staff Writer | October 27, 2020 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — For the Old Hotel Art Gallery in Othello, Halloween will be more than just a day of candy and costumes. This year, it will celebrate its 45th anniversary.

The Old Hotel Art Gallery first opened on Oct. 31, 1975 in an old hotel that had sat empty for a year following a murder in one of its rooms. The hotel was built in 1912 by Herman Immel for Mrs. Edmiston, according to a history of the art gallery as written by Gladys Para. It housed railroad crews, school teachers, young couples and anyone who needed a place to spend the night.

Over the years, the hotel changed owners and management several times. Some of the managers ran a restaurant in the back portion of the building. One of the managers, James Donley, died in the hotel in 1931. Another manager, Don Poe Estep and his wife Emma, lost a young son to the flu epidemic in 1918. He died in the dining room. The last owner was a man named B.D. Curry. He purchased the hotel in 1964. About 10 years later, a young man was shot in the hotel and died.

For the next year, the hotel sat abandoned. In 1975, members of the art gallery raised $4,000 to pay the taxes on the hotel and purchase the building. Volunteers spent weeks removing garbage, scrubbing and painting the building. Their work was rewarded when the hotel opened as an art gallery on Halloween of that year.

Since that time, the Old Hotel has helped encourage Othello residents in their love for the arts, even during the COVID-19 shutdown. While the building was closed this spring, Jenn Stevenson, manager of the Old Hotel, did live arts and crafts demonstrations on social media.

“All of our events, except one, have been canceled this year and our doors were closed for two and a half months with the loss of revenue, art classes, events and art appreciation,” Stevenson said. “We were creative and had weekly art videos throughout our spring closure and the summer.”

COVID-19 also didn’t stop some upgrades from being done. Over the past few years, the Old Hotel has been getting some needed maintenance and renovations, including new plumbing, new ductwork for the HVAC system, a new porch, new stairs and railing at the front of the building, new sidewalks, an ADA ramp, improved lighting, new landscaping and repairs and new concrete to the patio area surround the downspout for the rain gutter. A few of the projects were done this year during the shutdown. Looking ahead, there are more projects in the works.

Because of the restrictions in place due the COVID-19 epidemic, the annual dinner auction is being held as an online auction through Tuesday, Oct. 27, and as a drive-thru dinner on Saturday, Oct. 24. The theme is a birthday party. The board decided not to hold an event on the actual anniversary of the hotel and focus on the auction and dinner instead.

“Forty-five years is a milestone for any business or non-profit,” Stevenson said. “We’re excited for the next 45 in this historic building and wonderfully supportive community.”