Just over a month ago, the demolition of a historic Gulf Coast hotel seemed imminent. Actually, the destruction of the Luther Hotel is still not off the table – but it’s at least not going to happen in January.
“A temporary restraining order was placed on the demolition,” said Palacios Preservation Association co-chair Margaret Doughty. “The City of Palacios were informed that they were not able to issue the building permit for two weeks while the injunction papers were being worked on for a hearing that’s been set for Feb. 2.”
A charitable group, the Ed Rachal Foundation, is under contract to buy the Luther Hotel on terms that it be torn down. The foundation wants to build something new in its place – but the Palacios Preservation Association has been trying to convince the foundation to instead restore the building.
“And we want to be sure that we very respectfully say to folks, you know, if you’re going to change your mind, this is the time and these are the reasons. Because once the building is destroyed, it’s too late,” Doughty said.
Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation stepped in. The nonprofit group sent a letter to the Ed Rachal Foundation encouraging it to explore alternatives to demolition and offering its services for preservation. The letter also underscored that the Army Corps of Engineers could refuse new permits if there’s any future indication the foundation demolished the historic hotel to avoid preservation alternatives.
The Luther Hotel, which was built in 1903, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a Texas Historical Marker. The hotel has survived fires and hurricanes. It’s housed people during wars. But mostly it’s been the seaside center of culture and social life for Palacios locals and tourists alike.
“We’ve been very impressed at how many people have come forward and signed the petition to save the Luther,” Doughty said. “Local people, people from around the country, people from, actually, around the world.”
Doughty says her team and some pro bono lawyers are going to make sure every “t” has been crossed and “i” dotted before a demolition goes forward. But she’s still hopeful her group can help the Ed Rachal Foundation change its plans. She says the foundation has done a lot of good work for the Palacios community and the next best thing they can do, both for economic and cultural reasons, is to preserve the Luther Hotel.
“Wouldn’t the news headline that they might like to see be ‘the Ed Rachal Foundation saves the Luther Hotel’?” Doughty said.