Soon-to-be-purchased properties will expand historical experience in McGregor

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Two of McGregor’s largest and most historic buildings will soon have new owners. At the April 21 city council meeting, mayor Lyle Troester announced that Jenifer Collins Westphal and her husband Jeff, daughter and son-in-law of longtime residents Herb Collins and Joanne (Collins) Stewart, have entered into agreements to purchase the Sullivan Opera House and Alexander Hotel. The couple then plans to contribute the properties to a new non-profit entity for the purpose of historical preservation of downtown McGregor.

Both transactions are expected to be closed by mid-summer and the non-profit entity created before the end of the year.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Two of McGregor’s largest and most historic buildings will soon have new owners. At the April 21 city council meeting, mayor Lyle Troester announced that Jenifer Collins Westphal and her husband Jeff, daughter and son-in-law of longtime residents Herb Collins and Joanne (Collins) Stewart, have entered into agreements to purchase the Sullivan Opera House and Alexander Hotel. The couple then plans to contribute the properties to a new non-profit entity for the purpose of historical preservation of downtown McGregor.

 

“I have goosebumps,” said Troester. “We have the opportunity, as a town, to take this and make it something very special.”

 

Jenifer is a graduate of the MarMac class of 1980. Although she and Jeff are now based in Philadelphia, the couple has a deep love for McGregor. Before the pandemic, the Westphals began collaborating with the McGregor Historical Museum on a shared vision to expand the museum and McGregor’s historical experience.

 

It is the Westphals’ intent that the acquired properties potentially serve as a new home or additional space for the McGregor Historical Museum, its collection and an expanded historical and cultural experience in McGregor.

 

“The museum is still the main impetus, but there are other stakeholders too,” Jeff said. With creation of an independent, non-profit entity, the museum, historic preservation commission, chamber of commerce and other community partners can work together to determine the best use for the properties. “We want what’s best for the town—to energize the town and add value overall.”

 

No specific plans related to the refurbishment and operation of the opera house and Alexander Hotel have yet been agreed upon. The Westphal and Collins families have no commercial interest in the city of McGregor.

 

Both transactions are expected to be closed by mid-summer and the non-profit entity created before the end of the year. Troester, along with McGregor city administrator Lynette McManus and economic development lead Duane Boelman, will help create the new entity, but the city will not be involved beyond that. The entity will become the owner of the properties.

 

Located at 252-254 Main St., next to the museum, the Sullivan Opera House was built in the 1880s, housing the opera house in the second story and businesses below. It was most recently McGregor Hardware, which closed in 2002. The city purchased the property in 2013 and later turned it over to a developer, but renovation plans did not come to fruition.

 

“Any work that’s been done as far as architectural plans will come with the purchase of the building,” Boelman said.

 

Originally named the Lewis Hotel, the Alexander was designed by well-known architect Hugo Schick for landlord Charles I. Lewis. The hotel was built by John Moss in 1899, and there were originally 30 rooms, the large Lotus Dining Room and an ornate ballroom. It has been called the Alexander Hotel, after town founder Alexander MacGregor, for many years. Luis Maguina began operating the hotel and Latino’s Mexican/Peruvian Restaurant at the 213 Main St. spot in 2008.

 

“There’s a lot of history there,” said Troester, who noted the hotel currently has close to 20 rooms.

 

The Westphals said they are proud of their home town and appreciate its important, yet under-appreciated, role in American history. They and the new entity look forward to a process of collaboration with the museum board, city council, historic preservation commission and members of the community to form a plan for development of the expanded McGregor historical experience.

 

“It’s a wonderful gift,” said Troester. “Now we have a big duty ahead of us to make this grow and expand and make everyone proud of this.”

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