Ormsby House Renovation Photos – September, 2003

The big news comes first. September was the month of The Announcement. Also known variously as The Fracas or The Ultimatum. Whatever you name it, this was the month that the owners got fed up with the city bureaucracy and filed for a demolition permit for the Ormsby House. But after a tense week, with the future of the hotel at stake, they had a meeting with the city and had all their concerns resolved, and finally pulled the permit and agreed to go ahead with the remodel. Was the threat legit, or was it all a big bluff? Check out the whole story and decide for yourself.

The demolition plan really came as a surprise because work had been rolling right along all month. In fact, just the week before a crane had appeared onsite and parked itself by the front doors.

What could they be doing with a crane? I wondered. I looked around the grounds for something exciting that needed hoisting, but I didn’t see anything. So I sat back to wait and let it be revealed. And after a couple of days, a scaffolding started to rise along the east side of the hotel tower. The crane was there just to lift the scaffolding materials onto the roof of the casino.

They must have some serious plans for the hotel tower, to be draping it in scaffolding like this. Might there be some kind of paint coming in? Could the pale sandstone tan walls actually be going away? And of course there’s always the magic word that was uttered in this article: balconies.

The scaffolding reached to the sky, but right after that they filed the demolition permit, so things kind of stopped for a while after that.

Work continues on the front entrance. Concrete forms are being strung together, and a few steel beams have started to rise. The beams are the first pieces of the steel skeleton for the casino expansion.

The bridge and the hotel are still separated by the gulf of the ages. Visitors to the Ormsby House still have to make a 20 foot leap to get back to their cars.

The aforementioned steel skeleton will soon be bridging this gap. It’s all part of the expansion that’s bringing the south wall of the casino twenty feet out.

In the back of the building, they continued on their quest to generally tear things up. Here’s another shot of the back door that they removed. This used to be the entrance you’d have to use if you parked in the garage. You had to climb down the stairs or take the elevator, then walk to the corner and cross at the crosswalk. You would then go in this door, into a dank corner of the casino. They got tired of that noise and smashed up the door.

These windows used to hold seating for the buffet. This part of the building always seemed like an addition. For one thing, just look at it. It juts out in a weird block like someone just stuck it there. And inside, it was just different. There was buffet seating in the main building, but to getting to this section was anything but a smooth transition. You had to go up four or five steps to get up there, and when you got there the floor sounded hollow, like it was a false floor made of thin plywood. This part always stood out, and it looks like now they’re doing work to make it fit in better.

They tore out the windows in that whole section. It’s right next to the new holes they cut in the wall, and the bridge, so it looks like they’re going to work it all together somehow.

Here’s something you don’t see much: the basement of the Ormsby House. When they tore out the back door, they also tore out the wooden stairs that led up a few feet into the casino. Underneath was this gaping hole leading down to the basement. The hole was soon filled with concrete, concealing the basement in secrecy once again.

A look inside the casino. It’s still nothing more than a gutted building, but it’s finally getting the attention it needs.

Lastly, they brought out a portable generator and fired up their marquee once again. “Now Open!” it proclaims. If only. It’s actually talking about the Winchester Club. Later in the week they put up their attempt at comedy: “The good news is, we’re still here. And now the bad news: The hotel is a little bit drafty!” Hey now guys, bad jokes are my job.

If they don’t change their minds again and tear the place down, keep your eyes open for an October update. Actually, tearing down the building would make for some great pictures. Part of me is sorry it got saved.

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