1928 beauty ready for new closeup
By Gary Delsohn
Desperate for something to feel good about amid the city’s boarded-up storefronts and quiet office buildings? Make your way to the 2700 block of K Street. It should lift your spirits.
The spring afternoon I went there, a crane dangled steel beams high above rooftops, workers delicately handled decorative terra cotta and an energetic Roger Hume bounced around from floor to floor. The frenetic scene belonged to one of the more complex and promising rehabilitation projects in recent Sacramento history.
Hume, a longtime East Sacramento resident who made his mark building luxury homes in such upscale communities as Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, Bel Air and Brentwood, is betting nearly $40 million that he can turn the historic but neglected Eastern Star Hall building into a successful extended-stay Hyatt House hotel.
This will not be any ordinary 128-room hotel when it opens a little more than a year from now. Erected in 1928 across from Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, the once-proud building sat unused for most of the last decade despite the fact that its Romanesque Revival architecture and elegant features landed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
Built by a Sacramento Masonic women’s group that sold stock shares to raise most of the funds, the building features a grand staircase foyer, 20-foot ceilings, Juliet balconies, tall arched windows, Corinthian columns, three entryway arches, French doors and decorative terra cotta throughout.
As the paperwork for historic landmark status states: “Architecturally, this building has significance as a fine example of the Romanesque Revival style, but beyond that is one of only a handful of historically significant buildings in Sacramento devoted to the interests of women.”
Hume, who developed the La Borgata at Serrano shopping center in El Dorado Hills, said he was drawn to the old five-story building several years earlier by its red brick and terra-cotta arched facade that’s similar to the design of the city’s train depot on I Street. But he was too busy with other projects to give it much thought.
He had done several challenging historic renovations in Santa Monica. As he became more intrigued with the possibilities on K Street, he began to hear from skeptics.
“I know a lot of people looked at that building,” he says. “But I don’t think most people looked at that building with the grand planned vision that I really felt it needed. It needed more than just the existing confines of the building.”
Working with Sacramento’s HRGA, an architectural firm that did redesign work for the Marshall Hotel some 20 blocks west on K Street, Hume came up with an ambitious plan. He would preserve the Eastern Star’s front and south-facing facades, its brick walls, public-space lobby and mezzanine levels while gutting most of the rest of the building down to the basement.
Inside the hollowed-out core, Hume, who is general contractor on the project, decided to build a new eight-story structure—a building within a building. New piles had to be sunk to provide support and temporarily shore up the existing structure, while the interior floors and roof assembly were removed. A new, much taller steel structure is being built to help make the project financially feasible. Sequencing the work was a challenge: Hume’s team was building a new structure and simultaneously supporting the old one so it would not collapse in the process.
When it’s finished, the grand lobby, lounge and dining areas will have tall ceilings rarely seen in new construction. Much of the old wrought-iron furnishings, doors and other accents will give it a different feel than other extended-stay properties. Even two old working radiators in the lobby will remain for heat and atmosphere.
As part of his deal with the city and Sacramento Preservation Commission, Hume is saving and restoring everything within 35 feet of the front entrance. He has poured a new foundation, brought in new steel beams for what will finally be the eight-story structure within the original brick exterior.
“It took a while to sit down and meet with all the groups here in Sacramento,” he says. “But once you’re able to sit down and show a vision of how we’ll breathe new life into it, we’ll pay homage to the women who created this building and the history … when you see plans for the lobby and the grand staircase, people started to see that it could be something special for Sacramento.”
For clientele, he’s counting on people using Sutter Medical Center and other nearby medical facilities who want an extended-stay hotel. That’s why 70 percent of the rooms will have kitchenettes.
“We will give people a boutique hotel experience without the boutique hotel prices and that’s really what people are looking forward to,” he says. “A great experience.”
With Hume’s track record and passion for the building, he will provide a new Midtown destination that restores a grand old building to new life and purpose. That should lift anyone’s spirits.
Gary Delsohn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.