The his­toric hotel was orig­i­nally built in 1885, offering lodging for those moving westward.
Courtesy | Brant Cohen

The Keefer House Hotel is set to open its doors in November 2022, for the first time in over 15 years, according to Hillsdale City Zoning Admin­is­trator Alan Beeker.

To com­mem­orate the beginning of the ren­o­va­tions, there will be a public ground­breaking cer­emony on Friday, Sept. 24, at 4 p.m. The project’s prin­cipal architect, Gary Anderson, will speak at the event.

“We’re thrilled we’re at the ground­breaking and we’d love to have the com­munity come out and cel­e­brate,” said Brant Cohen ’18, Michigan devel­opment asso­ciate for CL Real Estate.

Since 2005, the Keefer House in downtown Hillsdale has stood empty. It was pur­chased by CL Real Estate in October 2018, which began planning the building’s renovation.

“It was in the very worst shape it’s ever been in,” Cohen said. 

Beeker said demo­lition began in August of this year. The current timeline projects the ren­o­va­tions will take about 14 months and end in November 2022. 

A majority of the nec­essary changes are internal.

“We’re pretty much taking a hard run to reha­bil­itate this project and mod­ernize the inside by bringing it up to fire code and sound­proofing and putting in plumbing,” Cohen said. “Cos­met­i­cally, this is going to become a bou­tique hotel, so we’re going to be ele­vating its design to meet a very upscale look on the inside to bring it up to a com­fortable standard.”

The Keefer House was orig­i­nally built in 1885 by a father and son, Charles and Henry Keefer. Cohen said Hillsdale was a popular spot to visit at the time.

“Hillsdale became a large jumping off point for those moving west and so the need for sig­nif­icant hotels here in town rose,” Cohen said.

The town’s prox­imity to the railroad brought in scores of vis­itors, according to Mary Wolfram, a con­sultant for the Tax and Finance Authority in Hillsdale.

“At one point, there were as many as 22 pas­senger trains a day coming through Hillsdale. That’s when Hillsdale was in its heyday,” Wolfram said. “The hotel used to send car­riages down to the railroad tracks and bring people up to Keefer house to stay.”

Wolfram said the hotel served a number of notable char­acters during its peak of activity.

“It had famous guests like Annie Oakley and ‘Buffalo’ Bill Cody,” Wolfram said.

Cohen also said the Rin­gling Brothers stayed in the Keefer House when they brought their circus through town.

The Keefer House offered more ser­vices to the com­munity as well, according to Cohen.

“In its early days, it was kind of the the focal point of activity in the city. The building served all parts of the com­munity,” Cohen said. “There was no hos­pital at that time so a lot of people would be taken to the Keefer, put in a room, and a doctor would come and visit. It also served as the funeral home for the town because again there wasn’t one. They would do vis­i­ta­tions in a hotel room at the Keefer.”

Cohen said he has enjoyed the oppor­tunity to work on the Keefer House.

“It has had a lot of inter­esting, rich history,” Cohen said.