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Travelers Hotel demolition to begin Monday

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The former Travelers Hotel at 426 Second St. SW.

Work aimed at demolishing the former Travelers Hotel is slated to start Monday.

Fraser Construction Co. will close sidewalks surrounding the site at the beginning of the week, with plans to continue work through Aug. 10, according to Rochester Public Works.

The path for demolition of the Mayo Clinic-owned property became clear in April, when a split Heritage Preservation Commission decided the former hotel is not a potential city landmark.

The building’s history starts in the early 20th century when two men, Julius Reiter and Billy Friedel, built separate buildings that were later combined in the 1980s to become the Travelers Hotel.

Reiter, a five-term Rochester mayor and one-time vice presidential candidate, built the first building in either 1918 or 1920. It initially provided small apartments for transient visitors.

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Friedell, a former circus musician turned developer, built a neighboring hotel between 1927 and 1931. It catered to single women in the city.

During the Heritage Preservation Commission’s review of the property, Elizabeth Gales, an architectural historian hired by Mayo Clinic, acknowledged Reiter and Friedell had made contributions to the city’s hospitality industry and its history, but she argued the contributions are not enough to overcome structural changes made in the 1980s.

"As the Travelers, it just does not hold up to historic preservation," she said.

Local historian Kevin Lund disagreed and appealed the commission’s decision, asking the Rochester City Council to take action to help preserve the building.

"Their distinct properties are associated with Rochester’s early hotel industry and important hoteliers that were not associated with the dominant Kahler Hotel Corporation," Lund wrote in his appeal, which was rejected by the council. "The restored Parker Hotel is one of the few remaining hotel types in this category."

Mayo Clinic purchased the building for nearly $1.7 million in 2001 and kept it in operation until 2016. At the time, a clinic spokesperson said the building was outdated and the needed renovations would be cost-prohibitive.

The building was placed in limbo in 2017, when the Rochester City Council approved an updated heritage-preservation ordinance. The former hotel had been earmarked as one of several buildings to be considered for potential landmark status but was removed with approximately 30 other properties when their owners challenged the effort to include them on the list.

The Heritage Preservation Commission’s 4-3 vote in April removed the building from the "challenged" list. A demolition permit was sought a day later.

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Mayo Clinic has not announced a plan for the site, but reported at the time an option for a short-term use is being considered.

Erin Sexton, Mayo Clinic’s director of community engagement, said any use will seek to benefit Mayo’s patients and staff, as well as the community.

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