Named for the man who, in 1883, made it the first commercial structure illuminated by electricity, The Hotel Edison was converted over time to support a mix of uses and had been in a state of decline for years. Though they lacked any experience with historic preservation, Meghan Beck and her business partner, Bradley Niemiec, both 36, bought it anyway.
Three years and countless hours of restoration work later, the hotel, located in downtown Sunbury, Pennsylvania, is thriving.
“Basically, we want to create an environment that supports the legacy of the building as an historic landmark so it can continue to be enjoyed by guests and visitors in the future,” Beck told me.
But the real estate duo also saw it as a smart business venture. “The other side of it is that we have a lot of investments in Sunbury and believed that the success of this building was important to the downtown remaining viable,” she says.
Using photographs taken of the hotel in the 1930s as a guide, Beck and Niemiec started restoration work with the dining room -- applying new wallpaper, installing picture and chair rails at the appropriate heights, reupholstering furniture from the 1930s, restoring the molding, and even tearing up the carpet and refurbishing the original wood floor.
Next came the upstairs hallways where ceilings regained their original 12-foot height and fluorescent lighting was replaced with more historically accurate fixtures.
The pair decided to maintain the mixed-use nature of the building with long-term apartments on the top floors, hotel rooms below, and a restaurant, bar, and banquet areas on the ground level. They’re currently at full occupancy with all but two rooms in service.
“The scale is the biggest challenge of this thing,” Beck explains. The size of the project dictates a phased plan for renovations. Next up is the facade, which Beck hopes to restore before the year is out. After that, their sights are set on the banquet facilities, stairwells, and the car-switch-operated elevator from 1917.
“I’m most excited that the business has been successful,” Beck admits. “In an area that has some trouble economically, that’s what everybody wondered about.”
But she’s also very proud of the building itself. “One of my favorite things is when visitors come and talk about ‘Oh, the Edison was the place to go back then.’ So we’re happy to bring that back.”