Our View: Can the Kilby be saved?

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 02:37 AM

Back in January, when the Enterprise first ran the Kilby Hotel photo that appeared on Monday’s front page, our history-loving hearts sank.
The photo shows a caved-in roof and a third floor that is exposed to harsh elements and all the rain we’ve been having this year. The weather may well be causing damage to the structure’s first and second floors, too.
Despite the huge historical significance of the Kilby Hotel, the building just is not a pretty sight. And its possible fate in the very near future is down-right ugly.
City of High Point officials have said the century-old building could be subject to demolition within 90 days if it is not repaired and stabilized to prevent a possible collapse. Several months ago, the city declared the building unsafe because of the collapsed roof and the possibility of walls falling. The city closed areas around the hotel to pedestrians and vehicles.
The big issue here is money. Myra Williams of Greensboro, who is a fifth-generation owner, says $175,000 to $300,000 is needed to stabilize walls and clean up the building’s interior. She and others have visions of a $2.83 million project to rehab and revitalize the property and develop it for commercial and residential uses. Williams said she and others have been trying to raise the necessary funds to stabilize and revitalize the hotel building, but just don’t have it yet.
Williams recently approached City Council regarding funds for stabilization, but with this year’s already tight budget, city officials say there’s little chance that any city money could be found. And that is an understandable response from city officials.
But is there a way to begin an effort that could at least commence with some stabilization activities? Or is the Kilby Hotel doomed to the fate of the old Biltmore Hotel that stood until about 25 years ago on High Avenue on the site of today’s Natuzzi Americas headquarters. By the time efforts to save that property were undertaken, it was in such disrepair that saving the structure was cost prohibitive.
The Kilby Hotel opened in the early 1900s, and from the 1920s through the 1950s, during the height of segregation in the South, the Kilby served as a popular gathering and entertainment spot for High Point’s black community. In the 1980s, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It closed during the 1990s.
Here’s hoping something happens fast to save the Kilby Hotel, because it seems there’s not much time left.

CLARIFICATION — Regarding Vince Wheeler’s column Tuesday: An individual’s direct contributions to political parties or candidates are not tax deductible. However, contributions to tax-exempt organizations that may support political causes or candidates can be deductible.