Photo by Mary Pierce
The round front of the Plaza, with office and upstairs rooms, bites the dust.
Photo by Mary Pierce
After months of preparation, weeks of hard work – and two weeks in demolition mode – the landmark Plaza Inn in Ogallala has been razed.All that remains are piles of rubble that also will be gone this week.
Although the physical structure is gone, one local man will carry with him many fond memories of the motel that his parents originally built and operated.
It has been seven decades since Mike Welsh frolicked on the lawn of the Welsh Motor Court or ran through the secret tunnel underneath the once-popular motel.
Watching what is now known as the Plaza Inn being demolished brings those, and so many more, memories back to life.
Welsh was just a child in the early 1940s, when his parents, David and Erma Welsh, opened the Welsh Motor Court on the Lincoln Highway, now known as U.S. Highway 30.
For more than 10 years, his parents operated the motel, which essentially was Welsh’s playground.
“It had these underground walkways. As kids, we’d go down there and play cops and robbers,” he said. “It was a great place to play.”
During the years, the Welsh family would embark on many business ventures at Ogallala, including the Paradise Motel, located across the street from the Welsh Motor Court; three gas stations; a Texaco bulk plant; and even a men’s clothing store, located in what is now The Clothing Closet. The store featured menswear on the main level, and sold boots and saddles from the basement.
Yet, Mike Welsh said the Welsh Motor Court, which was built during the height of travel along the Lincoln Highway and offered motorists “steam heated and air cooled cottages with individual tile baths,” was luxurious in those times.
Designed in an Art Modern style, the original exterior was stucco and had garage spaces between the units. (Later, they were enclosed to make additional rooms.)
Welsh said it is understandable that the motel is being demolished because, in its later years, the facility was not cared for and had deteriorated.
“But, I’m proud of what my dad did at that time,” he said.
Welsh said he looks forward to seeing what new enterprise will be built on that land.
“It’s time that Ogallala gets some new types of businesses instead of the old motels. It’s not very impressive when people drive into town and see empty motels,” he said.
Community Redevelopment Authority Director Brenda Ketcham agreed with Welsh’s view.
“(The Plaza Inn property) is a great piece of real estate located on Highway 30. It will be a nice piece to develop,” she said.
In an effort to get the motel into local control, in April, the CRA purchased the motel, which had sat vacant for seven years, for $21,600 during a trustee’s auction.
With funds from the city and county for asbestos removal, as well as funds from previous Tax Increment Finance projects for community and business development, the project to demolish the structures and make the property a viable, if not highly sought, piece of business property moved forward.
Tax Increment Financing allows for the collection of property tax revenue attributed to an increase in assessed value from improvement on a property in an area that has been deemed blighted and substandard. That revenue then is used to pay for infrastructure and improvements in the TIF district.
“We want to make sure the property goes back on the tax roles and creates revenue for the county,” Ketcham said.
The total cost of the project, which includes the purchase of the property, asbestos removal and cost to demolish the structures and remove and clean the property of all debris will top $150,000.
Ketcham said bids on the demolition and cleanup soared to $243,000 and the bid was awarded to the low bidder, Scottie’s Potties, at $65,300.
“It’s been particularly exciting to use a local contractor,” Ketcham said.
“Scott (England, owner of Scottie’s Potties) has done a bang-up job in getting it done quickly and thoroughly,” she said.
England said the demolition went smoothly.
Prior to any buildings coming down, anything that could be recycled or used, including furniture and appliances, was removed.
England said glass, brick and block also were diverted from the landfill, as were trees. Wiring, piping and iron were stripped from the structures.
“Anything that could be salvaged has been salvaged,” England said.
England said he hopes that by the end of the week all the rubble, other than the concrete, is removed.
Ketcham said once the property is cleaned and seeded, the marketing process would begin.
“I have no doubt its going to draw some interest,” Ketcham said. “It’s a prime piece of real estate.”
This report was first printed Dec. 5 in the Keith County News. It is reprinted with permission.