Jeff Jardine

Historic Hotel Jeffery making progress after fire

Hotel Jeffery owner Sara Zahn looks over the original adobe interior dining room wall that was hidden for decades if not longer by other materials. As part of the restoration of the 164-year-old hotel following the Nov. 12 fire, she plans to leave the wall exposed to share the history with guests.
Hotel Jeffery owner Sara Zahn looks over the original adobe interior dining room wall that was hidden for decades if not longer by other materials. As part of the restoration of the 164-year-old hotel following the Nov. 12 fire, she plans to leave the wall exposed to share the history with guests. jjardine@modbee.com

From the emails, voicemails and other reliable sources:

REVISING HISTORY – When fire severely damaged Coulterville’s historic Hotel Jeffery in November, owner Sara Zahn knew she wanted to bring the 164-year-old building back to life.

She is, with the help of supporters in Coulterville, Mariposa County and elsewhere. And when it reopens in the fall, the hotel will have a different floor plan upstairs, but with many of the original materials salvaged after the fire.

“The demo crew saved lots of the old wood, the framework,” she said while taking me on a tour of the old hotel Monday. “And they were able to save a towel rack, which I really wanted because some of it had been burned in one of the (three) fires in the 1800s.”

When the hotel’s $1.2 million makeover is complete, there will be guest 10 rooms – nine fewer than before the fire. The remodeled upper two floors will offer bigger rooms by removing walls and adding bathrooms.

“That was one of the things people would complain about – that the rooms were too small,” she said.

Not anymore. The Teddy room, where legend has it President Theodore Roosevelt once stayed on his way to Yosemite, will be expanded to include the bedroom, a sitting room and a bath. Room No. 19, at the north end and above the kitchen area, will become a sitting room. Room No. 22 (even though there were only 19) is the so-called “haunted room,” though Zahn said she hasn’t heard much from the hotel’s holdovers from the afterlife since the fire.

The fire damaged only the north end. But water used to fight the blaze damaged every room, including the dining room. It forced them to tear out the drywall that covered the original adobe walls and also the framing for the heating/air conditioning venting added at least 100 years after the hotel opened.

“We’re going to show the adobe,” Zahn said.

The hotel’s Magnolia Saloon, in a separate building, received no structural damage. But to reopen the bar – which Zahn hopes to do in April – she’ll need to have restrooms. The plumbing and electrical in the hotel won’t be ready, so she’s hoping to get the OK from the state to use portables until the rest of the hotel is finished.

Also, the saloon is required to serve more food than drink. To meet that goal, staff can barbecue and make sandwiches and salads until the main dining room reopens.

And once the interior work is finished, contractor Mark Becker has located tin to replace the exterior siding ruined either by the fire or simply by age, as is the case on the hotel’s south side.

Throughout the ordeal, Zahn has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in Mariposa County, including Becker.

“He’s put in so much free time,” she said.

Folks have donated time and materials, and they’ve scheduled a fundraising May 30 dinner and auction in the county park next to the hotel, $20 per ticket. Address checks to “Fund for Hotel Jeffery Restoration” and mail to Miriam Jones, 10403 Fiske Hill Road, Coulterville 95311. She’ll mail your tickets in return.

SECOND SECOND SATURDAY – The second installment of the Second Saturday speakers series at the McHenry Museum will feature Karen Tiffen, who will explain what life in school must have been like in the 1800s.

The hourlong event offers insights into local history and begins at 2 p.m.

ALSO AT THE MUSEUM – An exhibit on the history of Camp Jack Hazard opened last weekend and will run through the end of April. It details the opportunities given to thousands upon thousands of Modesto-area children to experience the Sierra at the summer camp named for the man who founded it in 1924. Sponsored by The Jack and Buena Foundation that funds the camp, the exhibit includes 91 years of photographs, papers and other memorabilia.

AND FINALLY ... The U.S. Forest Service unveiled its reforestation objective for 31,000 of the 150,000 acres burned in the Rim fire in 2013.

The plan is to plant mostly pines, firs and cedars, and all irrigated by Mother Nature.

No almond trees.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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