Snow on 2 Vale Historical Buildings totals 28,080 Cubic Feet

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After record breaking snow fall this winter and seeing the devastation of the fall of the historical Vale’s Slipper,  Mike McLaughlin and Sandijean Fuson  took action by removing approx. 28,080 cubic feet of snow off of two of the Vale Historical Buildings, the 1908 Vale Hotel  & 1895 Grand Opera House. McLaughlin and Fuson have been devoted to protecting these buildings and the 1914 Rex Theater ( 9,000 cubic feet) by working daily on this important task.  “Mike McLaughlin and the Drexel Foundation’s 20 year commitment of restoration and upgrades of installing engineered webs  to the Opera House roof system, roof repairs, and replacement of a failed beam in the hotel  paid off. It  gave these buildings strength during the time the heavy snowfall was taking so many structures in our region,” said Sandijean Fuson President of the Drexel Foundation.  In early life of Vale the Drexel Hotel had the cities water tower on the top of the roof. “It  gave me confidence that the hotels roof was stronger than most buildings in Vale.  Inside the roofing system is a bridge truss, which supported the weight of the Cities water tower years ago.  But the work of removing the snow was urgent and vital,” explained Fuson.

            The loss of Vale’s Slipper, a cornerstone to the historic district, brings to the forefront the question what is the Public Benefit of the Restoration of the Vale Hotel and Grand Opera House? Fuson explained there are many past present and future public benefits. The first benefit to the City of Vale was the repairs made by McLaughlin bring the buildings out of “Slum and Blight” during the 1990's. The Hotel was last occupied in the 1960's. In the 1990's the City of Vale was in a crisis owning the neglected building and with a penalty hanging over their head, due to the 1980's owners business dealings.  The City of Vale was “ineligible for CDBG grants “ This meant the City could not get Community Development Block Grants. No funding was available for community development project like the Senior Center, etc, so demolition of both buildings  looked to be an option to the City counsel. McLaughlin agreed to purchase the buildings and take them out of slum and blight.  Then city attorney David Powell thanked Mike for his commitment to historic preservation and commitment to get the City out from it’s penalized status. One of the first things repaired were the missing doors & windows, and the Opera house wall. This made a visual improvement to downtown.

            The Drexel Foundation began its cultural programs in 1995 which presently benefits the public by providing youth art, and culture programs, giving tours and promoting heritage education. “Cultural Tourism highlighting restored National Register Historic places has brought economic development to many communities throughout the nation. Currently, there is a huge benefit to our tours, meetings and collaborations. There has been much public input and discussion of future uses of the building driven by the needs expressed by the community.” said Fuson.

            What work has been done to determine those future uses? Numerous consultations, conferences, and meetings attended by the Drexel Foundation, community volunteers and community representatives such as  Family Foundation FLLP classes, Wealthworks classes, included asset mapping, and study of various models for reviving Economic development in rural communities has been done. The work is not complete. During 2017-2018 the Foundation has a planned Economic use & Development Study and is working with other organizations on convening stakeholders to learn more about the shared vision for the buildings uses. The public input to date have been suggestions for micro business enterprises, youth business incubators, retail space, a copy/fax shipping center, welcome center, bakery, artist studios, inter-net business spaces, bread and breakfast, legal conference rooms, accounting,  and professional office spaces.

Of course upon completion and full occupancy the Drexel Foundation shall have ownership interest in several spaces to continue and further their mission. Many specific spaces are already designated to be used as  “Drexel spaces”. “The entire 2nd floor of the Opera House for the Drexel Art Center, various rooms in the Vale Hotel,  “the “Charles Russell Room Artist in Residency Suite”, two office spaces, Film Editing suites for film programs, the conference room & Main Library, numerous storage rooms for art camp supplies, the formal prom closet, the tux room and the “shoe & coats for Youth program ” storage rooms.  The work by the committed board of Kathy Singer King, Sandra Tolman, Sharon Kinder, and Sandijean Fuson and groups of volunteers shall continue toward the goal of occupancy. The numerous Free Drexel programs do not have these buildings to call home yet but the art & cultural programing continues.

            Many communities throughout the nation have used various solutions to save, restore & preserve historic properties. The collaborative efforts of the Drexel Foundation, the owner McLaughlin and the community to revitalize these buildings and bring life back to Main Street shall benefit the entire town of Vale and the children of the future. Other non-profits exist that have within their mission preservation of National Register Properties. Restore Oregon is an example of one of those entities that has no ownership interests in the buildings they preserve.  Collaborations between non-profit and private sector in ownership is common. The Hotel & Opera House are on  National Register of Historic Properties, this designation provides another layer of protection through federal laws. The Drexel Foundations engine of community spirit, volunteers, and collaborative partnerships  helps move the vision of revitalizing Main Street of downtown Vale forward.

            2017 looks to be an exciting year ahead for progress, preservation and culture in Vale. Mark you calendars now for the Drexel Foundation’s  programs:Art in Park on Flag Day June 14th 9:00am-12:00pm, August Art Camp Workshops August 7-9th 9:00am-noon, Free Talent Show August 10th 7:00pm; Art Beat the Solar Eclipse with public tours August 19th 12:00pm to 6:00pm, Crash Course in Film-making Sept 6, Children’s Film Festival and Film-makers Competition Sept.-23rd, Annual Grand Opera House & Vale Hotel Tours Open House Dec. 31st 9:00am -12:00pm, Teen Film Project Spring -Summer 2017, Free Prom Dresses & tuxedos at Drexel’ “Formal Closet” Spring & Fall 2017 by appointment.  All these free events provide an opportunity for our local children to expand their minds, increase self esteem, and have positive influences and self expression all while learning the meaning of community.   If you would like to participate, donate, volunteer or if you have any questions,  please call Sandijean Fuson at (541) 473-3470 and leave a message or visit us on the web at   All of The Drexel Foundation’s events are free and provide a positive atmosphere where creativity is encouraged for local youth and families.

thumbnail Looking down the street2

This historic photo shows the water tower on the roof of the hotel on the far left side I did not crop it but you might want to. The Malheur Country History book also has on page 18 of  Vol 3 another great photo of the water tower too. Check it out....“History of Malheur Country, Oregon” Volume 3 page 18.

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