By Kellen M. Quigley
The past couple of years have been fascinating for the former West Valley Hotel. From being raised several feet in the air to having the majority of its interior completely gutted, the ongoing renovation process has its eyes on the finish line, which will hopefully be crossed in several months.
Following construction in 2017 of two wooden decks on the front of the structure and the addition of new siding in 2018 — the most visually striking improvement to passersby on Route 240 — completing the inside’s modern overhaul is nearly all that’s left to do.
West Valley resident Doug Studd has led the renovation of the landmark structure, something he says the community has continually let him know they’re happy to see.
“I didn’t really know a lot of people in town when I bought this,” he said. “After I bought it, people have been coming out of the woodwork, and they’re so appreciative… They show me old pictures, stop me on the street and shake my hand, and I had no idea it meant so much to these people.”
In 2017, Studd, now 70, said he had a goal of being open in a year, but now it looks like it will take at least two. After a medical emergency earlier in the year, he said he was put behind another 12 weeks.
In the meantime, Studd said he had a few extra hands join over the summer to help the project across the finish line.
“We’re about 75 percent complete,” he said last week. “We’re going to hit it again this weekend.”
Although a $159,729 state grant last year had helped offset some of the cost, much of the work has been Studd’s own money. Unfortunately, he said that has been one of the significant factors in delaying the opening.
Tasks such as installing a new sprinkler system and a new septic tank were necessary, but time and money consuming. But Studd said he wants to make the finished product the best it can be.
“You get these big surprises that you didn’t expect,” he explained. “We’re not going to cut any corners. The engineer told me I had done too much, but where would I have done anything differently?”
Studd purchased the building at a county tax sale about three years ago; the business had most recently been operating as a restaurant and bar on the first floor. Three hotel rooms, an apartment and a large empty hall on the second floor hadn’t been used in years.
More recently, a new heating system is in the process of being installed, the engineers have been working on the kitchen design and the electric wiring is about 90 percent done.
There are also items, like the septic system, to be approved by the county.
“We’re not that far out, it’s just the big-ticket items,” Studd said.
In addition to the restaurant itself, he also explained his hope of one day renovating the spacious room upstairs, located in the southeast corner of the building. The room features an original bandstand and enough space to fit plenty of people, perhaps for banquets.
“I also plan on putting an elevator in here,” he said. “If we have banquets or whatever else, we’ll have the elevator to run the food from one floor to the next.”
Studd also hopes one day to move into the apartment, located in the southwestern corner upstairs. He doesn’t plan on getting into the hotel business but wants to renovate the three upstairs rooms in case someone needs to stay, he said.
“This has been a very big learning experience for me,” Studd added. “But we’re getting it done.”