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The Atlantic Hotel: an historic icon with modern potential

I was surprised this week to learn about the closing of Bello Cucina, the Italian restaurant in downtown Marshall.

Bello’s was an asset to the downtown business district. It was good to be able to tell friends and relatives that we had an upscale Italian eating place.

The good news is that efforts are taking place to find a new tenant, hopefully another restaurant that can offer the same kind of public appeal.

It’s a very achievable goal. The Schwan Food Company showed a great deal of foresight when it turned the ground floor of the Atlantic Hotel into a restaurant.

A potential liability for the city became an enduring asset. The Atlantic is the only one out of three downtown Marshall hotels that still stands.

The Central Hotel, along with Marshall’s former creamery, was torn down in the 1960s to make way for First National Bank, which is now Wells Fargo.

The Marshall Hotel was recently torn down after being vacant for many years. It is being replaced with a downtown plaza to be known as Terrace 1872.

The Atlantic was the city’s only hotel to be listed in a AAA Hotel Directory circa 1930s. I have a copy at home that lists several details about what it would have been like to stay there in the early 20th century.

It had a total of 75 rooms and 20 bathrooms, a ratio that was considered good in those days. Single rooms started at $1 per night. Double rooms had a base price of $1.50.

So much of that kind of history, in cities large and small, has been lost over the years to new construction. It’s great to see a local example of preservation.

The hotel building is within convenient walking distance of the Schwan headquarters and three soon to be constructed apartment buildings on the city’s 100 block of West Main Street.

It overlooks Memorial Park, which used to be a lumber yard and a car dealership. There’s plenty of parking with good-sized lots on both sides of the Redwood River.

Knochenmus Enterprises has an exciting plan for the Atlantic. It involves using the second floor as office space and the third floor as an event center.

The third floor has potential to host large gatherings similar to what took place in the basement banquet hall between 1926 and the 1957 flood.

All of that contributes to great potential for the next occupant of the first floor. A final ingredient for success is the overall trend in Marshall’s downtown.

There are four other restaurants, all of which seem to get good levels of business. We have a wide range of specialty stores, two art galleries, a three-story museum, and a six screen movie theater.

Those of us who spend time on West Main Street notice good reactions from visitors to Marshall. It takes much more than an hour to see everything in the business district. Some visitors remark that they didn’t expect to find so much in a small city.

The downtown area has changed with the times. It reflects how many locally owned businesses need their own special niche in the marketplace. It’s much harder in the 21st century to be an all purpose mercantile.

Signs are pointing to continued successful adaptation. The Atlantic Hotel is likely to emerge as the latest success story.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporte and contributor to the Marshall Independent

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