Nov. 20, 2006

Former LP hotel and nursing home faces condemnation

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

During its nearly 100-year history, it has served as a haven for travelers, and a home for the care of the elderly and the handicapped.

The building at 100 Maple Street South was once a Lester Prairie landmark, but today, after years of neglect, it is a hazard on the verge of condemnation, according to the city.

The city’s involvement with the property began three years ago.

Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson said the city has tried to get property owners Corey and Clint Schmidt of Winthrop to maintain the property, and has served blight notices for debris in the yard and failure to mow the lawn.

The city’s options were limited, Carlson said, because it could only address problems that were visible from outside the structure.

That changed earlier this year, when the city learned that demolition work was being done inside the building without a permit, according to Carlson.

City building inspector, Kyle Christensen of Paul Waldron and Associates, issued a stop-work order as a result.

At the city’s request, Christensen and Carlson conducted an inspection of the building Sept. 12.

Christensen concluded that a lack of maintenance created conditions which present “a physical, health, and fire hazard to the general public, as well as to city fire or rescue personnel.”

Hazardous conditions included broken glass, possible structural damage caused by moisture entering the building, mold, and exposed electrical wiring.

The property owners did not appear when the issue was brought before the council Oct. 10.

At the request of the city council, city attorney Jody Winters filed a court order for repair, which was served Oct. 14.

The order requires the owners to:

• repair or replace windows and remove broken glass;

• comply with all state building codes and with findings of a licensed structural engineer;

• remove combustible material and refuse;

• remove or trim trees or shrubs to allow proper egress from the building;

• secure all exterior doors and accessory structures;

• repair south exterior stairs and landing;

• repair interior floors and walls;

• install or repair wiring according to building code; and

• obtain all applicable building permits.

If the required repairs are not completed within 60 days of the date the order was served, the building may be razed or removed, according to the court order.

The property owners have until Thursday, Dec. 14 to make the required repairs, Carlson stated.

He added that windows have been boarded up, but he does not know what, if anything, has been done to the interior.

The property owners have not applied for any building permits, and have not responded to any of the communications that have been sent by the city, according to City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk.

A history of change

The building’s current condition is a stark contrast from the days when it was a landmark known throughout the region.

Les Baumann, a life-long Lester Prairie resident, remembers the days when it was a successful hotel.

“Salesmen from all over would come in on the train, and they would stop and stay at the hotel overnight,” Baumann said.

Julius and Karoline Klatt and their family had leased a hotel in the city since 1891.

In 1910, they built a new three-story brick hotel on property purchased from C.A. Ingerson.

The hotel had 23 bedrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, two reception rooms, and a waiting room.

On the outside, there was a large two-story porch in the front, and another porch in the back. The property was surrounded by a white picket fence.

The business was run successfully by the Klatt family for many years, but began to decline as roads improved and salesmen began to travel by automobile rather than by rail.

The hotel business ended about 1936, although the Klatt family maintained ownership of the property.

The next brief chapter in the life of the building came in 1941, when Dr. James, a faith healer, practiced there.

Patients from a wide area came “to be healed by the laying on of his healing hands.”

Martha and Bertha Klatt sold the property to Adah Spellum and her son, Karl Spellum, in January, 1946.

The Spellums planned to convert the hotel to a nursing home for the care of elderly or handicapped patients.

Many changes were needed before this could happen.

The gas lights were replaced by new electric lights, the building was re-plumbed to add more bathrooms to replace the outhouse, and fire escapes replaced the knotted ropes in the upstairs hotel rooms.

The new business was named the Alice Haney Nursing Home, as a tribute to Adah Spellum’s mother.

It opened to patients Feb. 15, 1946.

There were two classifications of patients. “Up patients” were charged $60 per month, while “bed patients” paid $90 per month.

Over the years, the focus changed to serve the mentally handicapped.

Adah Spellum died in 1969, and Karl Spellum sold the property to his assistant, Tom Bettendorf, in 1981.

Bettendorf continued to operate the business for a time.

Eventually, the business was closed, and the property stood vacant for a few years.

It was then purchased by a family with 12 children, and used as a private residence.

The current owners purchased the property several years ago.

Note: information on the history of the property was adapted from the book “Lester Prairie Community 1886-1986,” researched and written by Barbara and Milan Dammann, with additional research by Charlotte Ehrke.

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