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Letter: Hotel Thompson conflict continues

By Marion Cashel, Worthington

I had written a letter last week but due to lack of space in either edition it didn't run. Now issues regarding the Hotel Thompson continue to change. However, I still want to enlighten your readers regarding some thoughts and opinions for a few days ago.

I've been following the workings of the City Council one meeting at a time, and the Globe articles one edition at a time, regarding the Hotel Thompson situation. I am totally stymied by all the side-stepping that has been going on in the numerous meetings and assorted discussions along with a lack of any indication of agreement on all topics. Why is it so difficult for those many members and group consultants to be unable to find ways to compromise? These heady topics, concerns and lack of decision-making regarding the hotel repairs just smack with their attitude, "I don't wanna.”

Numerous entities had been approached by the local council to re-roof the Thompson Hotel (Gage Sheet Metal), sell the property at auction (Grafe Auction of Spring Valley) and be the receivers of the Hotel Thompson (Lighthouse Management Group).

Former city attorney Mark Shepherd advised council to sell the Thompson as is instead, saving the strategy of trying to recover the most money. The city would be paid back first. Never mind the still-necessary need to repair the roof. Wells Fargo, second in line, would get its cut, of course.

Council member, Alan Oberloh spoke up with this: “So what we really need to do is come up with a figure that we're satisfied with.” Fellow council member Amy Ernst countered with: “We need to figure out what our goal is.” Mayor Mike Kuhle expressed concern about the Thompson being sold at auction at all. “I'm afraid of the low bidder getting this property and the lowest bidder not having the resources and the management to take care of it,” he said.

I commented regarding a statement from city planner Jason Brisson, but it was so ridiculous I'll refrain from repeating it.

Let me refresh anyone's memory who has read this far. Through the years the following are (some of) the Worthington buildings that have succumbed to the ravages of the wrecking ball: Carnegie Library, the Court House, Central Elementary School, Lakeview School, the 1908 High School, Main Street Medical Clinic. There may be more. We do not want, or need, to add the name of the monumental, historic Hotel Thompson to the list. That would just be absurd.

Mr. Brisson needs to read Worthington's history. Our town was founded in 1872. Is calling in the wrecking ball the general thinking of how to deal with Worthington's landmark building since 1912, the Thompson Hotel? That landmark was built by a crew hired by Peter Thompson. Yes, repairs and renovation will cost a bucketful of money, but what doesn't cost a bucketful these days to make improvements and upgrades? Have you looked at your latest tax notice? Yikes.

To those of you in office: be smart. You who manage the city's financial purse strings and all its ups and downs need to find the necessary funds to repair and renovate Worthington's greatest landmark. Just do it. Make the numbers work.

For a minute now, let's move ahead to the Wednesday, April 10 edition of The Globe. Let's read something positive, shall we? We need one bit of uplifting news.

From the Globe's April 10th edition, I quote: “The Worthington City Council tackled zoning issues and Hotel Thompson business during its regular meeting Monday night. Regarding the Hotel Thompson, Worthington Director of Community Development, Planning, Zoning and Building Services Jason Brisson noted that a private party has come forward and expressed an interest in the building and would like to fix the roof itself. The party asked for some time to prepare all the financial information necessary.” Seriously?

That sounds great. Time to get busy. It would seem that the wheels are beginning to turn, very slowly, and perhaps something positive may be happening, if not soon, eventually. As a citizen of this city, I am so hopeful that the offer by the party will come to fruition.

To continue  from The Globe: “The council generally agreed that a private buyer is an ideal solution if it works out. Members decided not to take any action, but also waived previous decisions made last week on continuing re-roofing and expelling residents." Surprise, surprise! Not.

Council members took no action. Now, doesn't it sound, once again, as though we're back to square one? Time will tell whether the private party offer works out, whether the city will re-roof or just what will happen next. Let's hope we don't hear the word “wrecking ball” mentioned.

Where did the name Hotel Thompson originate? Let me tell you. History lesson, 101.

Here's a bit of Peter Thompson history. Peter Thompson was born in Sweden in 1839. He came to this country with his parents at age 11 in 1850. Over the years, he eventually made his way to the proposed site of this town in 1871. Two days after his arrival and after surveyors laid out the town, he bought the first three lots. Two were on Ninth Street and the other on Third Avenue. He built a store on Ninth Avenue. It became the Thompson General Store and thrived. That store was eventually moved to be preserved and still stands even now at Pioneer Village.

Peter was a shaker and a mover. He was a great businessman and in 1880, became a fellow banker with George Dayton and the sole owner in 1888. His most lasting monument was the Thompson Hotel, built in 1911 when Peter was 73 years old.

Peter gave this small town so many wonderful assets. Still now, decades later — yes, even 100 years later — we need to remember Peter Thompson for what he did for this small site in 1871. Our town, now a city, came to be known as Worthington. The Hotel Thompson still stands in his memory as a tribute to his foresightedness.

The Hotel Thompson needs to be repaired, renovated and preserved to be saved along with Worthington's ongoing history. The council and other entities will do the right thing and save the landmark. Won't you?  Do not let all your talk just be idle rhetoric. Please?

And last but not least: One more time, please think about Jeff Baumgarn, who is on the horns of a dilemma. He, too, needs help. Step up, citizens. Help him, please.

The Hotel Thompson, our last great landmark, desperately needs saving. Let's put the wrecking ball talk back in Pandora's Box and think positively, OK?