Lancaster Watchdog Don't rush Swan song for old hotel
Obstructed view Abandoned no more Twitter trained Owner says it's doing what it can to protect building, carriage house at Queen and Vine. By Chip Smedley, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Some readers have asked about plans for the Swan Hotel at South Queen and East Vine streets in the city, as well as the parking lot and carriage house behind the main building.
One reader, who specifically referenced the carriage house, wrote, "I expect the wall on Christian Street to collapse any day."
Providing a bit of history, the reader added that the carriage house is unique because, "The ground floor had an elevator to raise the carriages from Vine Street to the Christian Street level for storage [thus eliminating a larger footprint]."
Residents also expressed concern about vandalism to the carriage house and wondered if the owner, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, had plans to develop the property.
The authority purchased the tract in 2003 and used the parking lot as a staging area for the convention center's construction trailers.
When the center and the restoration of the Thaddeus Stevens House/Kleiss Saloon/Lydia Hamilton Smith properties were completed, plans were unveiled that called for an interpretive center and museum to be constructed on the Swan Hotel parking lot.
Those plans, however, never panned out and the property remained vacant -- and, at one point, the roof of the carriage house caved in.
LCCCA Executive Director Kevin Molloy said when he arrived in Lancaster in 2008, "From the 19th floor of the Marriott [hotel] you could look into the carriage house and see trees growing in the building."
So Molloy encouraged the authority to hire a contractor to clean out the building and, this past summer, a stabilizing brace was placed on the Christian Street wall.
That's when a series of acts of vandalism began, Molloy said, which included destruction of four panels on the garage door, people breaking into the building and throwing bricks all over its interior, and tearing plywood covering off the interior of the carriage house windows.
Though the center has tried to keep up with the vandalism, Molloy said, the property's location, coupled with the open parking lot, "is a place where negative activities can happen."
Molloy said the authority board is considering roof options for the carriage house to keep the interior from deteriorating.
The Swan Hotel was built as a private hospital in 1824 by a doctor who lived next door, according to newspaper files. By the 1840s, the individual rooms made for an easy conversion of the building into a hotel and tavern.
The authority recently authorized funding to patch the roof and re-point the bricks of the Swan, which closed in 1990. The former hotel is regarded as the Historic Preservation Trust's most-watched property.
"Ideally," Molloy said, "we would like to have the building developed, but the authority doesn't have the money to spend on its development.
"Right now, we are concerned with three issues," he added. "No. 1, what are we doing to keep the property safe? Then we must decide what we want to do with the property, and then determine what the cost will be."
City drivers contacted The Watchdog regarding numerous places where pennants and flags have been installed along curbs to advertise businesses. Their concern is that at some intersections, the pennants obstruct the sightlines of drivers pulling into the flow of traffic from a side street.
As a general rule, said city Public Works Director Charlotte Katzenmoyer, if the pennants are installed in the city's right-of-way, they must be removed so they don't obstruct drivers' views or interfere with pedestrians.
Anyone with complaints about wrongly-placed pennants should contact the city's department of public works at 291-4739.
Residents on Beaver Street who are wondering about the future of an abandoned property in the 500 block will be pleased to know that, according to Randy Patterson, the city's director of economic development and neighborhood revitalization, the redevelopment authority last week accepted an offer to purchase the property. The buyer, said Patterson, will be living there.
Proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks, The Watchdog now has a Twitter account: @LNPWatchdog Most people would consider this a logical and natural progression into 21st-century communications networks. Those who know The Watchdog, however, will no doubt view this as a sign of the apocalypse.n