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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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The Henry shows its age and its heritage
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Wayne Knox, the city’s director of community development, shows the fourth floor hallway at the former Henry Hotel.
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

If one looks past the rust and dead cockroaches in a few of its sinks and bathtubs and a fallen ceiling here and there, you can see remnants of charm and elegance in the former Henry Hotel in uptown Martinsville.

The hotel opened in the early 1920s and became an apartment complex more than 30 years ago. The city bought it in 2009 with plans to eventually refurbish it, and it provided new homes for the residents who were displaced, recalled city Director of Community Development Wayne Knox.

Last week, the city agreed to sell the building to Waukeshaw Development Inc., a Petersburg firm that plans to redevelop the building into 24 new apartments as well as four commercial/retail spaces.

Much of the Henry’s history is visible in the lobby through features such as metal ceilings, marble columns and small hexagon-shaped floor tiles that are typical in structures built as early as the 19th century.

They often are referred to as “hex tiles,” architecture websites show. Knox did not know if they have a more formal name.

For people installing them in homes and businesses today, “you’d call it expensive,” he laughed.

Previous owners modernized many parts of the building over the years. For example, upstairs halls have been painted white and are institutional-looking. Large, standard-type floor tiles also are white.

Hotel rooms apparently were combined to form apartments, Knox said.

Each apartment has a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom, plus a couple of closets. A kitchenette with a sink, stove and oven is on the side or tucked away in a corner of the sitting room.

The kitchenettes were installed when the hotel rooms were transformed into apartments, Knox recalled.

Baths consist of a tub, sink and toilet. Certain plumbing fixtures in some of the apartments appear to be older than others.

Apartments look fairly modern, but they have some old-style charm. For example, slim linen closets lined with cubby hole-like shelves on both sides have decorative moldings.

Parts of ceilings in several parts of the building have fallen due to “moisture working its way down” from higher levels of the building, Knox said.

Despite the fallen ceilings and the need for a thorough cleaning, residential areas of the building look livable, for the most part.

“The folks who lived here hated to leave,” Knox said while walking through the building last week. “It was their home for a long time.”

People have inquired about living at the Henry since the city closed it, Knox said.

A restaurant and insurance office already occupy parts of the building. Knox said the businesses have indicated they would like to stay there.

City officials have said it took a lot longer than they expected to find a developer for the Henry.

“Had we known it would be this long,” Knox said, “we might have kept some of the rooms livable” so the city could have generated some revenue from tenants until it sold the building.

The city is selling the structure to Waukeshaw for $1. Final paperwork had not been signed as of late last week.

In exchange for the cheap sale price, basically, the city must help the firm acquire financing for the redevelopment, such as through enterprise zone benefits including waivers of certain permit fees and taxes.

Waukeshaw has estimated that the project will take 18 months to complete, but Knox said it probably will be a year before the firm can get started.

 

 
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