Panhandle Spirit: Efforts underway to save the Panhandle Inn

Over in the town of Panhandle, off Main street and Third, sits the old Panhandle Inn. It opened back on New Years eve of 1924 and was not only the center of town, but also a destination until it closed in 1970. People like Scott Sherwood joined the efforts to save the old structure, spearheaded by Julie Young.

"There's a tremendous amount of history and it was the focal point of not just Panhandle but "the" Panhandle when it was the largest shipper of freight on the Santa Fe Line and that is was the heart and soul...was the Panhandle Inn," said Sherwood.

The two story motel had 54 rooms, some with their own bathrooms while others shared showers and toilets. It was the center of town which included a post office, cafe, doctor's offices, bus terminal and often was the location for local dances and social gatherings. Since it closed, it's been rarely used and now the effort is to save the building and turn it into a usable space with a large part of the town backing the restoration efforts.

People like Brad Fields, who grew up here and says it's important to remember the Inn and restore it.

"It is a testament to the historians and preservationist attitude we have here. What a place to have-- a location in the heyday and it was the mecca of business trade, cattle barons, railroad moguls...what a place," said Fields.

City Manager Rob Roach says main streets are the hearts of every town... and saving the Inn for the future helps preserve its place in the past.

"And the thing about it is, you can build a new place any day of the week and if you find one that's salvageable and you can preserve the history for the community and kids, that's the great thing about it."

They have started receiving state and national grants for the project, and while there's not an exact total for the renovation, every bit helps as they look at turning the shell of a building into office and retail space, apartments or maybe a restaurant.

Even the high school is deeply involved...using the Inn not only as a teaching tool from architecture and engineering to marketing and promotions...and Principal Jerry Schaeffer knows its part of the identity of the town and its important for students to be a part of it.

"Our school, I hope sees the Panhandle Inn project with growth and development, as a partner with the school."

There's no set in stone timeline for completion and there's still a lot of fundraising and volunteer work yet to be done, but residents like City Commissioner and Board Member Bill McLeod know its worth saving.

"It would be a beautiful place, as it sits now, it's just an old building but it can be made the center of town again," said McLeod.

The first steps have already been taken to breathe new life back into the Panhandle Inn which has sat idle, with the exception of the odd fundraiser or spook house around Halloween. With the show of support found all over the area, it may not be too long until the doors open back up to a waiting base of fans..