A Florida businessman has purchased a historic centerpiece of downtown Chanute.
Tampa, Fla., businessman Caleb Walsh has purchased the Tioga Hotel in downtown Chanute and Big Hill Lodge near Cherryvale from local owner Todd Johnson.
Walsh reported the sale closed Wednesday after seven days, including the July Fourth holiday.
Walsh’s website lists his interest as affordable housing, and Johnson said he has apartment complexes in nine states.
“Sounds like he has a great plan,” Johnson said. He said the sale is a positive for Chanute, and Walsh plans to expand the Next Extended Stay brand from the Tioga to other properties.
Johnson has owned Big Hill Lodge on Big Hill Lake since 2003 and purchased the Tioga in 2004. He created the Nest Extended Stay brand in 2014. “Both properties are in excellent condition,” Johnson said.
The six-story Tioga has 55 rooms and Johnson said 16 have kitchenettes. Walsh described the Tioga as having three ballrooms and three commercial kitchens.
Built in 1929 by Chanute contractor John W. Pratt, the MediterraneanRevival-style building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990, but had been vacant for four years when Johnson bought it.
Local residents Milo T., Hugh T. and Neil S. Jones pushed for local support to raise the $218,000 needed for the building’s original construction. The Sweet Hotels, Inc., chain was contracted as operator and president John Sweet wanted to name it the Jones Hotel, but the Joneses objected.
Tioga, one of the original four towns that became Chanute, was named from an Iroquois word meaning “open way” or “at the forks.” The hotel opened Sept. 19, 1929.
Big Hill Lodge has seven units, including a three-bedroom house and cabins.
Johnson said he has struggled during 2008-10 to bring the Tioga building up to fire standards and during downtown sidewalk and street renovation. He also said it hurt business when audio speakers were installed downtown and US-169 shut down for rebuilding.
“It’s been quite a learning experience,” Johnson said.
Johnson will continue to operate a restaurant, Strip’s Chicken in Kansas City.