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Local man hopes to give Blackfoot landmark new life

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Oct 25 2012 11:24:07 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 26 2012 12:43:26 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

BLACKFOOT, Idaho -

Sometimes, it's easier to let go of history.

Shiny new buildings often rise up where old ones used to stand, and history is slowly erased.

In Bingham County, one man is working to save a historic site from that fate.

The old Eccles Hotel -- a three-story brick building on Broadway in downtown Blackfoot -- has played dozens of roles, and hosted an untold number of tenants over 100 years.

The building has stood steady through 17 different presidential administrations.

It's been a hotel, a hospital, and a home to many. 

But for the past few years, it's been mostly empty.

"It's a shame when they tear down all the old buildings, and the towns lose their history," said Justin Oleson. 

Oleson is working with a small group of other local investors to remodel and revitalize the old building. 

"(Old buildings) were built to last," he said. "Things aren't built to last anymore."

 For Oleson, when a building reaches a certain age, she sort of becomes more than a building.

"You can see buildings like this in Europe that are hundreds of years old," he said. 

After so many years, the old building is less of a "something" and more of a "someone."  

"These were made to last forever," said Oleson. 

For Oleson, buying the old Eccles Hotel building on Broadway means a chance to preserve his home-town's heritage.

"If you tore down all the old buildings, all you'd have is Wal-Marts," he said. 

The vision is simple. Oleson plans to create some sort of mixed-use property with the building. The plans aren't concrete yet -- the project is still in the planning stages. 

But Oleson said he hopes giving such a big part of downtown an upgrade will make a bigger difference for Blackfoot. 

"Blackfoot should be the place to be," he said. 

Oleson said he and his group of investors need to make sure everything in the building is structurally sound and then they will begin to move forward with the project. 

The building began its century-long journey as the Eccles Hotel in 1913. 

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