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Graystone recognized by state Preservation Alliance

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota recognized Detroit Lakes' Graystone Hotel at its 25th anniversary celebration.

Mayor Larry Buboltz and Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation President Arlen Kangas attended the ceremony.

"Why they picked the Graystone, I'm not really certain," Kangas said. "But it's a pivotal piece of property and (its loss would have been) very detrimental to historical preservation statewide."

The 25th anniversary celebrated 25 of the state's significant preservation stories. The Graystone was added to the National Register of Historic Places list in 1999.

The restoration of the Graystone is a "combination of economic, housing, community and historical development at once. It's an odd intersection of all those things coming together," Kangas said.

According to historical records, the Graystone Hotel was constructed in 1916. With a prospering Detroit Lakes, tourism was beginning to flourish, as were hotels in the area.

Various buildings occupied the area where the Graystone would sit. In 1916, the Hotel Minnesota Company took control of the land and cleared the space for construction of the Graystone.

The hotel was engineered to be fireproof -- an important selling point to guests at the time -- and also included the luxury of indoor plumbing. The architect estimated the building would cost between $55,000 and $60,000, but the actual bids came back at $75,000 to $90,000.

Plans were revised and after another call for bids, the low bidder was contractor August Randolph. The building was ready for residency in August or September of 1917.

The facility contained 60 rooms, most with baths, on the second and third floors. The first floor consisted of the lobby, writing room, barber shop, manager's office and café. There was also a ladies parlor.

After competition and buying out Hotel Minnesota Company partners, Elon Galusha Holmes became the sole manager.

To the east of the Graystone, there is a building known as the Markland, which was constructed in 1904 and 1909. Between 1917 and 1927, the Markland began serving as the annex to the Graystone.

The building served as a place for people to stay for an extended period of time. It became the annex to the Graystone and was reconstructed to fit the appearance of the hotel. Construction was finished in 1927.

Around 1910, according to photos, the ground floor of the annex was modified to accommodate storefronts.

In the 1930s, under ownership of Holmes' nephew, Fredrick Wright, an elevator was added to the facility.

Some of the businesses that operated out of the Graystone included Montgomery Ward Company, Greyhound Bus Line and the city's liquor store.

After the construction of Highway 10, business at the Graystone suffered, and different options for the hotel were discussed, including adding a swimming pool and making it into a drive-in motor lodge. None materialized.

New owner and manager Robert Nelson changed the name to Graystone Manor Complex and in 1972, converted the building into apartments.

In 1998, the building was sold to MMCDC, to be refurbished and used as affordable housing, offices and retail space.

Kangas said the building and project has received several awards statewide, but locally it's been controversial.

A few of the other 25 buildings recognized by the Preservation Alliance include Northern Pacific Depot in Little Falls, Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Pickwick Mill in Pickwick, Duluth Central High School in Duluth, Hotel Kaddatz in Fergus Falls and Soo Line Depot in Thief River Falls.