BY WILLIAM PATRICK firstname.lastname@example.org Nov 15, 2018
Mike Searcy and Jean Mollard of the Redlands Hotel proudly display their first-place award from the Texas Downtown Association President's Award Program.
Already renowned among natives, the Redlands Hotel is receiving statewide recognition by scoring a first place in the Texas Downtown Association President's Award program.
The Redlands beat out more than 100 other statewide applicants in the “best renovation, restoration,
and rehabilitation” category for the work done this year to restore the lobby of the downtown hotel.
The annual award recognizes outstanding projects, places, and people of Texas. The Redlands Hotel competed against other projects in cities of 15,000 to 100,000.
On Wednesday, Jean Mollard, who owns and operates the Redlands with her partner, Michael Searcy, sat in the renovated lobby of her hotel, under the glow of chandeliers plugged into original, early-20th century sockets, and keeping warm by the fireplace, built with the hotel in 1914.
“We are so happy to receive this award,” Mollard told the Herald-Press. “The work is tedious, because we intend to adhere to historic standards and retain the history, while making it useful today.
“People walk into an establishment with expectations of comfort. It can look like the turn of last century, but no one wants to be cold in the winter or hot in the Texas summer.”
Mollard said she didn't know how much the renovations cost, but the project was self-funded, without assistance from grants.
Among the many changes: Ripping up the lobby carpeting, glued down in the 1970s, to reveal a hand-laid marble floor. Contractors also took down walls and moved air conditioning units, and even plumbing to retain the old-world character of the lobby.
Palestine Economic Development Corporation Assistant Director Greg Laudadio said TDA judges were looking for what he referred to as “the 3 R's”: restoration, renovation and rehabilitation.
“The most difficult part is in the restoration, while also rehabilitating the building for modern use,” he said. “The judges want to see historical accuracy, but everything must be usable in today's world.”
Of the 100 award applicants, eleven, including the Redlands, made it to the final round, where TDA judges visited the buildings nominated.
Palestine Historic Preservation Officer Jacob Morris said he was not surprised when the Redlands came out on top.
“It is not unusual for a small city of less than 20,000 people to have had a large anchor hotel in the early 20th century,” Morris said. “It is very unusual for a city of this size to have successfully rehabilitated such a structure. Even more rare is for a rehabilitation of this size to be conducted by private owners.”
Lobby renovations took roughly six months. They were, however, only the latest in the decades of restoration Mollard has done on the hotel since she purchased it with then-husband Norman Mollard in 1976.
It's not a money-making investment,” she said of the constant work that she, her family and crew do on the building every day. “It's a labor of love.”
PEDC Director Gayle Cooper said the city reaps substantial benefits from the work Mollard does, including the award.
“I already considered the Redlands the landmark commercial building in Palestine,” she said. “With the winning of this prestigious award, clients and tourist from all over the state, and even the country, will consider the Redlands whenever they visit Palestine.”
That means more revenue from hotel occupancy and sales tax.
“I wish good fortune on Jean,” Cooper said. “Her good luck is also good luck for the city.”
Proudly displaying the lobby's woodworking, paint and original, hand-laid tile floors which were built, cleaned, and repaired to turn of the 20th century conditions, Mollard contemplated her next project.
“The Polar Express is starting,” she said. “We have to get our Christmas decorations up for the guests. I've got to make sure there's a Christmas tree in every room for the kids.”