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Kimball Towers celebrates 100th anniversary

Date: 9/15/2010

Sept. 15, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- A landmark building is turning 100 and a yearlong celebration started last weekend.

Kimball Towers on Chestnut Street was built in 1911 and Building Manager Linda Caron said the condominium complex would have a series of events culminating at the 2011 Mattoon Street Arts Festival.

This past weekend, the building hosted tours of available condominiums and a jazz performance. In the coming year, there will be activities on Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and July Fourth.

The building was constructed by William Kimball and opened as a hotel on St. Patrick's Day in 1911, she explained. The hotel had 309 rooms and a dining room with a capacity for 450 guests. It was the location for the studios of one of the first commercial radio stations in America, WBZA.

Kimball sold the building to hotel entrepreneurs Ernest Henderson and Robert Moore in 1937. The two businessmen were buying hotels on the East Coast that would eventually become the Sheraton hotel chain, according to the company's official history.

By the 1960s with the decline of rail travel -- the train station is only several blocks away -- the building was sold several times and converted into apartments in 1967. In 1985, the building was converted into condominiums. There are 132 one- and two-bedroom units.

Over the past five years, there have been over $1 million in renovations to the building, Caron explained, including improvements to the elevators and the boiler and air conditioning systems.

Despite the modernization, Caron's efforts to upgrade the building have also included restoring and maintaining its historic look. The lobby, although no longer one of a busy hotel, features the high ceilings, lush carpet and marble accents.

The building is 100 percent owned she said, and is 75 percent owner occupied. There are some residents who own several units, which they rent to tenants. Caron said she has seen a shift to more owners living in the building.

One of those owners is Bradley Latham, who is the treasurer of the condominium association and has lived at Kimball Towers for the past eight years. Latham, at the time he bought his unit, was working in Hartford, Conn., and walked to the Amtrak station every day to commute to his office.

"It was quite civilized," he said with a smile.

Latham said one of the advantages of Kimball Towers is that it "is in the middle of everything."

"It serves many levels of people, many races, many income groups -- we all get along," he added.

The Urban Land Institute report on Springfield's redevelopment cited the Apremont Triangle neighborhood -- the location of Kimball Towers -- as an area with potential, Latham noted. Across the street from Kimball Towers, the Springfield Business Improvement District is leading an effort to fill a building with artist studios.

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