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Originally built in 1888 as the railroad-boom Palouse Hotel, the St. Elmo Hotel is a major component and visual anchor of the Palouse Main Street Historic District which was established in 1986. With its mansard roof and metal shingles, it is one of the few existing commercial buildings in rural eastern Washington in the Second Empire style. It is one of Palouse’s most iconic buildings, and in 2020, it was added to the list of “Most Endangered Places” by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
Many private individuals have attempted to rehabilitate the property, but given the size (18,000 square feet), age (135 years old) and condition of the building, together with the associated costs of restoration, all have chosen to sell. The property currently is listed for sale.
Some in our community have expressed an interest in saving the building and have dared to imagine what a revitalized St. Elmo might mean for Palouse. In April, a community meeting took place to discuss whether there was a path forward to preserve the St. Elmo Hotel. Many attended, and there was significant interest in trying to find answers to the many questions everyone had, as well as potential solutions.
At this point, the City, which has access to a different set of tools and funding, started investigating what options the City might employ to help the community get the answers they were seeking and determine if the City might have a role in rehabilitation of the building.
Our first step was to apply for funding for a feasibility study to learn more about the cost of stabilizing the building, explore ideas for potential reuse that would lead to economic revitalization, and examine whether a funding plan could be developed that would make it feasible for the City to take on this large-scale project. In May, the City applied for a grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to fund the feasibility study and find answers to the many lingering questions about the building.
In July 2023, the City was awarded a $50,000 CERB grant, with a $12,500 local match. City leaders met with one of our stalwart champions – Avista – which agreed to fund $5,000 of the matching funds. Local residents have given directly to the City to support the match. Swale, with the Friends of St. Elmo, held a fundraiser selling t-shirts, prints and tea towels featuring an image of the St. Elmo, raising over $1000 in donations.
With the CERB grant in hand, the City applied for an Integrated Planning Grant (IPG) from the Washington State Department of Ecology to study any environmental contaminants within the building and whether it would qualify as a Brownfields site. Just recently, the City learned it was awarded a $200,000 IPG. We are particularly excited to receive these dollars because another successful rehabilitation in Palouse started with an IPG; the contaminated site of the old Conoco station, which now is home to Palouse Brewing Company and TLC Veterinary Clinic – a project that recently earned the City a Small Site and Community Impact Phoenix Award at the National Brownfields Conference.
With a substantial amount of funding in place to use on this study, the City moved forward with selecting a consultant to help determine the cost of stabilizing the structure, find a funding plan to restore the building, and work with the community on developing potential reuses of the property.
We hosted a meet and greet with Haley & Aldrich on November 16th, 2023 and the community was invited to bring feedback and questions.
Join the Friends of St Elmo mailing list to receive updates as this process moves forward. Email the volunteer team at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the group and learn about future opportunities.
St Elmo Listing: 130 E Main Street, Remax
Palouse Main Street Historic District Photographs
National Register of Historic Places, Palouse Main Street Historic District
Most Endangered Places: St Elmo, Palouse with Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (2020)
Palouse History with Association of Washington Cities (2020)
Palouse launches feasibility study for St. Elmo Hotel Renovation, Whitman County Gazette (August 2023)
Palouse hotel receives $50,000 grant, Moscow Pullman Daily News (July 2023)
City of Palouse receives $50K grant for the “St. Elmo Revitalization Study”, Big Country News (July 2023)
Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board invests more than $4.5 million in three counties, Washington Department of Commerce (2023)
Palouse St. Elmo’s makes state’s Endangered list, Whitman County Gazette (October 2020)
Palouse rallying to save historic downtown building, Moscow Pullman Daily News (Feb 2020)
St Elmo closer to tear down, Whitman County Gazette (Feb 2020)
Historic St. Elmo’s building in Palouse closer to being demolished, Lewiston Tribune (Feb 2020)
New fire burns at St. Elmo’s, Moscow Pullman Daily News (November, 2007)