Monday, March 9, 2009

The Matz Hotel 1911-2009

'The Avenue' suffered another heart-wrenching loss on Feb. 27. The collapse of the Matz-Milner Hotel (1911-2009).

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have a handkerchief handy...

The crumbling hotel took part of the Colonial Theatre with it as it came crashing down. The 1916 vaudeville theatre and silent movie house lost it's art deco lobby and weathered marquee.

The good news? Not a single person was injured.
The bad news?

There was talk of using dynamite to bring down what is left of the Matz at a city meeting this evening. Uh-oh...

Both the hotel and theatre were built by Samuel L. Matz. In her book, Bluefield in Vintage Postcards, (Arcadia Publishing, 2004) Mary Margaret Spracher Annett mentions two notable visitors to the hotel - President Herbert Hoover and heavyweight champion Joe Louis. And the Matz also "hosted actors performing at the neighboring Colonial Theatre."

I had just emailed the owner of the Colonial a few days before the collapse- volunteering to help him in his efforts to save the theatre. Mr. Tibbs is heartbroken-but he is willing to fight to save the auditorium if he can. The cleanup of the Matz may be a threat to what is left of the theatre. All of us with the J.E. Martin project are ready and willing to help him.

Rhonda Sullivan, director of the not-for-profit that owned the Matz, must be devastated. I don't think that she or the 'West Virginia Mainstream Associated Projects' should be blamed for the demise of the Matz. They were trying to secure funding to restore the hotel.

Most people who could fund a project with ease - don't. They know they won't see the return of their investment. Grass roots organizations and non-profits come to the rescue of many historic sites. It happens over and over again.

By 1858, Mount Vernon was about to fall in. Did a man with sufficient funds gallop by and take an interest? No. No one wanted the property. Not even the government. Enter the little ol' ladies. Everybody in Virginia probably thought they were crazy. George Washington's old house. ..Who cares?

Visit to see what became of it.

"By the mid-19th century, George Washington's home had fallen into disrepair. After both the federal government and the state of Virginia declined to purchase the property, the estate was sold in 1858 to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the organization that has restored and preserved Mount Vernon ever since."

"Since that date, the private, not-for-profit organization has maintained and operated Mount Vernon for the benefit of admirers of George Washington the world over."

Thank you Ladies!

Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Matz-Milner is no more

Bluefield Daily Telegraph: Memories of the Matz