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Man restores historic McCammon building

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: May 27 2014 06:34:29 PM CDT
Updated On: May 28 2014 01:47:38 PM CDT

To the town of McCammon, the old, dilapidated building which first served as a bank back when it was built in 1906, was just hopeless. But to one man and his wife, it was an opportunity.

McCAMMON, Idaho -

If you build it, they will come, then later stay the night.

At least that's the hope for one local man who is on a mission to reconstruct one of southeast Idaho's oldest, most historic buildings by turning it into a luxury hotel.

McCammon native Aaron Hunsaker and his wife moved back from D.C. hoping to find one, particular building that would serve as a good hotel for guests traveling through the state. 

"We looked at about 10 to 12 properties from here to Rexburg and this is the one that stood out to us," Hunsaker said. "This is the one where we thought that this is the one that would work best for what we wanted."

To the town of McCammon, the old, dilapidated building which first served as a bank back when it was built in 1906, was just hopeless.

But to Hunsaker and his wife, it was an opportunity. 

"We couldn't believe there wasn't a nice, modern, cool place to stay that wasn't old or like a themed hotel; just something different like what you see back east. So we started joking that we will just have to do it ourselves."

But soon joking about it, turned into a reality.

Since this past July, Hunsaker spent every single day out in front of the building, hand-scraping all of the paint compiled over the building, soon revealing what the original structure once looked like before anyone alive today was able to see it.

Hunsaker said at one point he had a crowd of people throughout the community gathering across the street, taking bets on what the original words painted on the building said as he unveiled each letter.

He said ever since he first bought the building in July, he has had the community's support, with many often times stopping by in their spare time to help Hunsaker with the remodel.

"The town has been really excited to see this building restored. I've had many people coming up to me who are my parents' age who once lived up here when they were first married," Hunsaker said, pointing to the top of the building.

Before the rooms on top of the building were apartments, they served as the town's hospital as well.

But, according to city councilman Clyde Lowther, over time the lights upon the city which had once been a thriving, old western town, had dimmed.

"At one time this town had a hospital, a bank, a movie theater, etc.," Lowther said. "But just like a lot of small towns it had just gotten smaller, the Interstate went the other way. It's still a great place to live, but it's not the thriving community it once was clear back in the late 19th century when the stagecoaches came rolling through."

Lowther said he hopes this hotel attracts more visitors and gives the town something else besides the annual rodeo to rally behind.

Hunsaker is naming the hotel, "The Harkness Hotel" after H.O. Harkness who once owned most of the town and who was also behind building the original structure which happened to be the city's first mercantile store.

Harkness owned his own hotel located in a separate part of town, but that had burned down exactly 100 years ago as of this year.

With an architecture and history background, Hunsaker said he wants to preserve the history of the hotel by using some of the same trim, doors, and furnishings he uncovered while carefully deconstructing the building.

He not only uncovered the original windows that had been hidden and painted over, but he also uncovered the original floors which had old, dated newspapers stashed away inside it as well. He also discovered the bank's original vault which even had an old bullet mark imprinted on it.

Hunsaker said he the hotel will feel early 1900s with a modern twist, complete with 140 spotlights lining the eight rooms, 12 chandeliers in the hallways, high-vaulted ceilings, and one-thousand feet of crystal strands mounted into the hotel lobby.

But, that's just a taste of what's yet to come.

Hunsaker said people are already starting to put their names in for reservations, but the hotel's grand opening doesn't even kick-off until June 28. 

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