A belief in the possible resurgence of Old Town is leading a Dayton man to take a crack at restoring the Fox Hotel.
Tom Snodgrass and his wife, Thelma Bataille, haven't completely decided what they want to do with the old hotel, which Snodgrass said was built in the late 1860s or early 1870s.
"It has a long history of being a motel, a house of ill repute, a hotel, a residence and a hotel again," he said. "It's been abused over the years, but the bones are real good."
Snodgrass said the hotel became connected with a house next door, with an entrance between them, some time in the 1890s. He and his wife bought both buildings in November and plan to reconnect them.
He said apparently at some point, drug users stayed in the upstairs rooms, where he found mattresses and drug paraphernalia.
"Someone had turned it into their own private junkyard," he said. "I spent $3,000 on six 30-foot containers just taking stuff out."
Getting it cleaned up was only the start of the work. Snodgrass had a crumbling chimney come down on him; he has to completely redo the entire building.
"The more we work on it, the more we find," he said. "We've applied for permits to redo the plumbing and as soon as we do that we're going to grade it (the yard) out and put in concrete for parking."
The hotel's seven upstairs rooms are small, just big enough for what the ladies who occupied them did to make a living, Snodgrass said.
The couple has not yet decided what to do with the property yet, but are leaning to offices or a bed and breakfast.
"This would be a perfect place for offices," Snodgrass said. "Either a real estate office or law offices. The courthouse is right across the street."
He said a bed and breakfast would probably do well in that location, with the new restaurants springing up in Old Town, but he's concerned about comfort considering the small rooms and lack of insulation.
"You want to be authentic, but you also want your guests to enjoy themselves," he said. "How we go with it depends on how amenable the county is to doing things. We have to take it one step at a time."
Snodgrass said they have spent about $250,000 just getting the property cleaned out and the restoration started, with a long way yet to go.
Why embark on such a long and expensive journey?
"We believe in Dayton, we believe in the Valley," he said. "We think that Old Town Dayton can be something special, that it just takes some money and a lot of energy."
Snodgrass said he hoped to be done with the smaller building by July 1, then tackle the hotel.
"What it takes for the second building will depend on which way we'll go with a bed and breakfast or offices," he said.
Whatever goes inside, he said, the exterior of the building will look like the original.
"We think we can be part of the positive influence in getting this back to the original Dayton that it should be," he said.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.