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Kimball Towers celebrates 100 years in downtown Springfield

Date: 3/15/2011

March 14, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — On March 17, 1911, Ward Kimball opened a hotel on Chestnut Street that has become an enduring landmark in downtown Springfield. No longer a hotel, the building now houses more than 100 condominium units with the promise of more.

To celebrate its centennial, Mayor Domenic Sarno will issue a proclamation on March 17 during a ceremony at the building attended by the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee. Later that day there will be a buffet supper for invited guests, Linda Caron, the building's manager, explained to Reminder Publications. Spring-field historian James Boone will present a slideshow history on the building during the evening.

Caron said the invitations went out to a wide group of people who live and work downtown. The condominium owners' association, the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association and Caron's management company will sponsor the event.

Later this year, in conjunction with its centennial celebration, Kimball Towers will be the location for a new music concert series and will host the annual craft fair for the Valley Radio Reading Service, both open to the public. Caron said that other activities are being planned.

When opened a century ago, 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. The Springfield Sheraton will be donating a cake for the program on March 17.

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.

Caron said there have been more than $1 million in structural and systems improvements to the building. Now, the owners are considering cosmetic changes such as new wall coverings and carpets.

The building is also finalizing plans to use its long-closed 15,000 square-foot ballroom. Caron explained the building's owners are considering either selling the ballroom for development or to convert the space into eight to 10 additional apartments, some of which could be two-stories in size.

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