It was almost too dark to see when U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger stepped into the lobby of the Hotel Kaskaskia.
A cloudy day impeded sunlight from getting through the windows.
“It’s so dark in here, you can’t see the paint peeling away from the ceiling,” joked Inga Carus.
Carus and husband Peter Limberger fronted a tour of the Kaskaskia for the congressman on Monday afternoon.
“This is a great project. You drive by it all the time, but I never knew the history behind it,” Kinzinger said.
And his curiosity was piqued in the old building, which despite its current shabby condition, is undergoing massive renovations over the next couple of years.
Kinzinger got a quick history of the building, which was designed by Benjamin Marshall and Eli Fox (architects of the Drake and Blackstone Hotels in Chicago) and opened in 1915.
He was even more interested in the potential it had after renovations, asking what rooms were going to be, such as the large open space on the sixth floor known as the Manufacturer’s Club.
“Maybe get some Lone Buffalo up here? It has a beer garden feel,” Kinzinger said.
Carus said Kinzinger has a chance to help with the project firsthand by opening up funding for the National Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. Carus said a pending improvement to the tax credit bill would help divert funds to areas outside of big cities.
“It makes it better for rural areas like ours that might need the funding even more,” Carus said.
One main goal for the Kaskaskia restoration is to offer event space for the Illinois Valley, and hopefully attract conferences. While about two years of renovations remain, Limberger said they are securing a fair amount of investors.
“A project like this is great for bringing jobs back to the area,” Kinzinger said. “You’re putting us back on the map.”
The hotel was in operation for the better part of a century, serving as premier lodging for the area while offering other popular amenities such as Side Bar and the grand ballroom.
The six-story, 95-room hotel was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1988. Its doors closed entirely in 2001 before Blouke Carus purchased the building for $1 in 2003 with plans to redevelop it. The building lay dormant until work started on the exterior of the building and the garage this year.
On the election
With the Republican Party taking many key positions in the general election, both locally and nationally, Kinzinger said a key demographic expressed their opinion.
“Rural America spoke out in the election,” he said. “They felt left behind by Washington and by their leaders.”
Kinzinger said that with a lot of manufacturing jobs leaving rural areas, Republican candidates gained appeal.
He also said it was another important reason a project such as the Kaskaskia will help spark economic growth.
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