BY KEN PARK – Friday July 31st 2020
PORT TOWNSEND — The historic Belmont Hotel in Port Townsend has received the Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation Award from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
The building at 925 Water St. was nominated by the Port Townsend Main Street Program.
“We are very honored to have received this award,” Kirk Neisbitt, one of the three owners of the building and hotel, said July 20. “It has truly been great to accompany this beautiful historic building in the journey to fulfill its potential.”
Neisbitt and his colleagues Marya Sessions and Enrique Ferreyos purchased the waterfront Belmont Hotel and building, formerly known as the Sterming Building, in 2017 and have been working since then to restore it to its former glory.
The Belmont was built in 1889 by Whiteway & Schroeder Construction for $12,000 and housed the Belmont Saloon owned by George Sterming.
Sterming died in 1892, but the saloon operated until the start of the Prohibition era in 1920.
From 1920 to 1979, the building was home to a range of businesses, including a shoe store, a real estate insurance office and a restaurant and hotel combination called The Lido Restaurant and Inn.
But in 1992, the use had come full-circle and the building once again housed the Belmont Hotel.
Neisbitt and his colleagues, through individual donations and a $40,000 revolving loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), worked with local construction companies such as G. Little Construction to renovate the Belmont.
Like many businesses, the Belmont Hotel is slowly but surely recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and owners say they are taking all necessary precautions to keep guests and staff safe.
“We have very stringent cleaning of the rooms when guests depart,” Neisbitt said. “When they do check in, we provide them with all the towels and things for the extent of their stay so we don’t have people coming in and out of the rooms during this time.”
Neisbitt said the virus nearly stopped business this spring, but that, during the past two months, they have seen an increase in visitors, many of whom are in-state residents on weekend getaways.
“Everything pretty much came to a standstill at the hotel,” Neisbitt said. :We really didn’t have any traffic during the March, April, May time frame, outside of health care workers and things like that, that were coming through for specific purposes.”
Renovations have continued.
Thus far, the front and rear facades of the building have been fully renovated as well as the entire second floor and all four of the hotel rooms.
The rooms themselves have been refurbished to maintain their Victorian-era style but with modern amenities.
The two rooms that face Port Townsend Bay now have French doors that allow guests out onto a new balcony, while the other two rooms, which overlook Water Street, have bay windows that have been completely restored.
The building’s original floors, woodwork and brick were also uncovered and restored to add to the aesthetic.
“Restoring a Victorian building from the ground up is a huge challenge, with all the headaches and joys you can imagine,” said Mari Mullen, executive director of the Port Townsend Main Street Program.
The main floor of the Belmont is still under construction, but documents on the hotel website at www.thebelmontpt.com/waterfront-market show the area will become an indoor/outdoor marketplace where people can shop and eat.
“Each of these spaces should be seen as individual blank canvases for the mosaic of options within the footprint of the Market,” Neisbitt said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].