Atwater City Hall

New is Not Always Better

Designed by architects Olson and Skoolheim, the Hotel Atwater opened in 1904 on a site facing the railroad tracks. Originally, the building housed twenty-two steam-heated guest rooms on the second floor, and a kitchen, office, and two large sample rooms for traveling salesman on the first floor. In 1942, a pool hall and a snooker room were added. From 1951 to 1978, the building changed owners several times and from 1979 to 2003, a restaurant and bar occupied the first floor. After the restaurant closed, the building was purchased by Sue Meyerson, a local resident and preservationist. Under Ms. Meyerson’s ownership, architectural assessment and environmental abatement were completed, but she was ultimately not able to complete the building’s renovation.

The main floor of the Hotel Atwater has been converted to city administrative offices and meeting spaces.

Enter the city, which in 2005 had failed to pass a $725,000 municipal bond levy for a new building to house the library, police department, and city offices. In 2008, when city residents were faced again with a levy request to support new construction, they instead voted in favor of restoring the hotel building. Ms. Meyerson offered the hotel to the city for $1, and the Atwater City Council voted unanimously to buy and restore the hotel, seeking grants from the Minnesota Historical Society to assist with the project costs.

Building for Another Hundred Years

City Councilman Shane Hagstrom, who supported the Hotel Atwater project from the beginning, led the effort to seek grant funds from the Minnesota Historical Society. A total of $125,500 was granted in two phases, with matches provided by city funds. Renovation was underway from December 2010 to October 2011, including interior demolition, structural rehabilitation, roof replacement, new window installation, and electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems

The public library occupies approximately one-third of the rehabilitated space.

upgrades. After nearly ten years of vacancy, the Hotel Atwater reopened in November 2011. Today, the building is home to city offices, the fire department, and to the library.  The upper story remains unfinished, in anticipation of future rehabilitation development opportunities for public or private use.

In the early stages of the project, some people doubted whether the rehabilitation costs were worthwhile, and had concerns about the building’s structural integrity. Councilman Hagstrom says it took some convincing to get everyone on board, but after seeing historic buildings in Boston much older than Hotel Atwater, he couldn’t think of a reason not to fix a building that will last another hundred years or more.

The restored Hotel Atwater enlivens the downtown streetscape. The library occupies the storefront space on the right side of the building.

Project Details

Architect: Engan Associates, Willmar

Engineer (building structure and conditions assessment): Duffy Engineering & Associates, St. Cloud

Project Funding

State Capital Grants-in-Aid from Minnesota Historical Society (in two phases): $125, 527

Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant: $65,485

City of Atwater General Funds:

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