Danville town, civic and community leaders came together Wednesday to commemorate a milestone moment for downtown, as the newly restored Danville Hotel and McCauley House were formally dedicated as town heritage resources.
The two historic structures, both of which were originally built in the 1890s, were renovated and preserved by private developer Castle Companies as part of its redevelopment of the Danville Hotel property -- a project that also brought new two-story retail and residential buildings to the corner of Hartz and West Prospect avenues.
"It's a project that has been in the making for a long, long time. And we couldn't be prouder," Danville Mayor Karen Stepper told the group of about four-dozen people on hand for the dedication Wednesday evening. "It's been a special project for all of us."
Stepper said the Danville Hotel was always a draw for downtown Danville, and she commended Castle Companies for restoring the historic buildings while still ensuring the Danville Hotel would remain a destination location.
"It's a fabulous achievement," she added in her comments before she and other town leaders unveiled the plaques marking the Danville Hotel and McCauley House as the town's 18th and 19th designated heritage resources.
The exterior renovations and structural work are completed at both buildings at 411 Hartz Ave. All that remains is interior improvements to accommodate the new retail tenants who are set to open inside them in the coming months: Basque Boulangerie Cafe in the Danville Hotel and Enchanted Florist and Gifts in the McCauley House.
Behind the heritage buildings is the rest of the new Danville Hotel Town Center, which features more than 34,500 square feet of new restaurants, storefronts and second-floor residential units.
All retail spaces have been leased out, and all residential units have been sold, according to Tom Baldacci of Castle Companies.
Retail tenants at the site -- some open now; some still preparing to open -- include Papyrus, Pizza Antica, Danville Brewing Co., BoBen Jewelry, Heavenly Couture, Sole Desire Shoes, Patrick James men's apparel and Look & See Optical and Accessories.
Baldacci, in his comments at the dedication ceremony, credited the support Castle Companies' multifaceted, mixed-use project received from town officials, calling it the type of "cooperation that lets you do this type of project downtown."
The Danville Hotel Town Center earned a top industry award earlier this month for the developer and architect William Hezmalhalch. They won a Gold Nugget Award from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference for the best Residential Housing Project of the Year (Attached within a Suburban Setting).
The project, which first received town approval in 2011, celebrated its ceremonial ribbon-cutting last December.
Longtime staples of downtown, the Danville Hotel and McCauley House were officially designated as town heritage resources by the Danville Town Council last October.
Stepper, who frequently leads historical guided tours in downtown, also spoke Wednesday about the history of the two buildings and the Hartz Avenue corridor.
The Danville Hotel was built by the McCauley family in 1891 and opened the following year, used mainly as a hotel for railroad workers and occasional transients. Irish immigrants and one of the first families to own property downtown, the McCauleys constructed their 1 1/2-story, Folk Victorian-style home on Hartz Avenue in 1893.
When it became apparent that Hartz would be the main downtown thoroughfare, the Danville Hotel was moved next to the McCauley House and reoriented 180 degrees in 1927. The 10-room hotel experienced several renovations before and after the move.
In the 1930s, the building was converted to a fine-dining restaurant and boarding house, and after an ownership change, its use changed again to a roadside attraction and restaurant with upstairs owner living quarters in 1952.
The site underwent another change in the 1960s with the addition of western-themed structures, dubbed the "Wild West" buildings. Amid subsequent ownership changes, the Danville Hotel building itself experienced other structural modifications and operational changes, including periods of vacancy.
Those Wild West structures, which deteriorated over the decades, remained prominent in downtown until Castle Companies knocked them down in early 2014 to begin work on the Danville Hotel Town Center.