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.