In Baton Rouge, 1920s Hotel Reopens
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Apr. 13, 2011
Derek Fitch remembers the first time he and fellow developers John Schneider, Brace B. Godfrey Jr., and Brace B. Godfrey III saw the abandoned Hotel King in Baton Rouge, La. The seven-story structure opened in the 1920s, became a dormitory during the Depression, was later turned into office space, and had been vacant for almost two decades. "It was definitely run down," Fitch says. "We felt we could be a force in bringing that building back to life."
In February, five years after the team began a $25 million renovation, the 93-room Hotel Indigo opened its doors. A ribbon-cutting ceremony today was attended by Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, National Trust President Stephanie Meeks, and other preservation leaders who supported the project.
"The National Trust is proud to support the renewal of a Baton Rouge landmark, one that helps establish the city's historic core as a vital center for tourism, business, the arts, and entertainment," Meeks said today.
A Hotel's Secret
The Hotel Indigo is connected by an underground tunnel to the 1927 Heidelberg Hotel, now a Historic Hotel of America.
As the building sat on the market for years, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to research the building's history and list it on the National Register of Historic Places—a key designation that qualified the project for grants.
The National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC), the for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and its investment partner, US Bank, invested $18 million in the project. The North American Land Company and the Leach family also invested in the project.
NTCIC's investment was crucial, as was Louisiana's state historic tax credit program—which is scheduled to disappear at the end of the year. "This building is an example of why we need the state tax credit," says Carolyn Bennett, executive director of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana. "It takes everything to make these old buildings work."
The Hotel Indigo will host a grand opening ceremony next month. So far, Fitch says, "It has been received by the community with wide open arms—we're receiving rave reviews."
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