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5/15/2007 11:44:00 AM
Evansville's McCurdy Hotel keeps elegance throughout the years
The McCurdy building at 101 SE First St. in Evansville first opened as a hotel in 1917.

The McCurdy building at 101 SE First St. in Evansville first opened as a hotel in 1917.

Evansville Courier & Press

The McCurdy Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, opened its doors nearly 90 years ago, debuting June 17, 1917.

Since then, it has at varying times shifted from booming to bankrupt, changed from hotel to retirement home and undergone numerous renovations and reworkings.

But through it all, the elegance of the McCurdy has remained, said Evansville Historic Preservation Officer Dennis Au.

"It was just a place of elegance when Evansville was really an up-and-coming city," he said. "That's what's so nice about it. You can go in the lobby and the solarium and you can still feel the sense and the intent of the architect."

The hotel was developed by a group of local businessmen, led by William H. McCurdy. They pooled the $750,000 needed to build it, which would fulfill then-Mayor Benjamin Bosse's wish for a luxurious facility to aid the city's expansion efforts.

St. Louis architect H. Ziegler Dietz designed it, incorporating pink Tennessee marble in the lobby, American walnut and mahoganized birch on the upper floors amid 268 rooms and a slew of then-state-of-the-art features. A full-page ad that appeared in the Jan. 9, 1916, edition of The Evansville Courier heralded it as a "palatial and modern hostelry that will be unrivaled in any city of 100,000 in the world."

That prominence was reflected in the guests who stayed at the McCurdy, including Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, according to the Courier & Press' archives.

But business dwindled in the late 1960s and the it fell into bankruptcy, closing its doors March 16, 1969.

That lasted only seven months, when the building sold at an auction for $530,000 to Robert E. Green. It reopened almost immediately.

By October 1970, however, Green sold the building to Medco Corp., which stated its intention to gradually turn it from a hotel into a residential facility and retirement home.

In 1989, it was resold again, becoming the McCurdy Healthcare Center.

That facility was cited by the Indiana State Department of Health for complaints lodged in June 2003 and July 2003. Both were considered "immediate jeopardy" violations.

That led to two years of negotiations between McCurdy and the Health Department, culminating in a legal agreement almost two years ago where McCurdy agreed to cease operating as a comprehensive-care facility by the end of 2005. McCurdy later withdrew from that agreement and the facility remained open to residents; later it received a state license to operate residential or intermediate care.

In June 2006, McCurdy was renamed Riverwalk Communities and changed its cliental focus. The owner-operator, Michael Weber, said at the time he had agreed to convert the 120-bed nursing home to 98 assisted-living apartments and to close the skilled comprehensive-care portion.

More violations of state regulations were reported later in 2006. In November, a resident was hospitalized with "extensive ulcerative lesions" that had become infested with maggots. The state found Riverwalk in violation of residents' rights to be free from abuse and neglect. Riverwalk responded the patient had refused treatment.

Eighteen violations were listed in a January Health Department survey of Riverwalk, including citations for medication management, record-keeping, building maintenance, employee screening, cleanliness and infection control.

At the McCurdy announcement Monday, officials told the Courier & Press that Riverwalk and its residents will relocate by October to Trinity Village, a nursing facility at 4301 Washington Ave.

Two officials with the Health Department familiar with the facility's violations were unavailable for comment Monday about Riverwalk's impending relocation.

The current heirs of the McCurdy won the rights to it in 2004 and held onto it until a "suitable buyer" showed interest, according to a statement issued by Evansville attorney Allison Comstock.

Au said the news it will become upscale apartments is positive because it is an important historical structure and one of the last remnants of its era.

"It is an anchor," he said. "It's the last significant historic building of Evansville's commercial Downtown on the riverfront."

Courier & Press staff writer Bryan Corbin in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

Related Stories:
• $7.2 million downtown Evansville renewal project to bring upperend apartments

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