More than a century of patchwork renovations made the Adelphi Hotel a maze of structural support, none of which seemed to offer the iconic Broadway building much stability.
Rows of original king trusses — massive load-bearing beams running diagonally on the second floor to support the two stories above and open floor plan for the ground level below — had been compromised by alterations. Some of the trusses were cut through entirely, causing the weight of the historic building to bow its walls outward as the structure settled over the years.
Still, the alterations seemed to work in concert with each other. Though the building bore telltale signs of looming structural failures from its rear, there were enough supports inside to keep it standing for nearly a century and a half.
“It was being held up by everything inside there working together,” explained Toby Milde, president of Richbell Capital LLC, which purchased the building in 2012.
Yet with each wall removed, the grim structural issues facing the Adelphi became more and more clear. And soon, the cost to convert the hotel into 32 modern suites ballooned well beyond original construction estimates of around $7 million.
Richbell halted work on the interior last year and began pursuing a new plan. In addition to securing historic tax credits, the company expanded the project down nearby Washington Street to incorporate a cluster of parcels once owned by the Bethesda Episcopal Church.
Richbell also got the funding it needed to embark on a project to transform the Adelphi and a sizable swath of land behind it into a first-class hotel and banquet facility. On New Year’s Eve, the company closed on a deal with Bank of America to borrow $24 million, which will help finish the work on the original hotel in addition to transforming the rear property into complementary buildings.
All told, the project cost is now at an estimated $34 million, including the financing needed to purchase Bethesda’s former rectory and its parish house on Washington Street. The expanded project includes constructing a state-of-the-art kitchen, basement-level spa and 1,100-square-foot glass conservatory in the Adelphi; a 5,500-square-foot banquet house in the rear of the building; a 20-room, 15,000-square-foot building on Washington Street; the transformation of the stone rectory building into a four-room “presidential” suite; and a new, larger pool area for guests.
“The project has expanded greatly all to the benefit of the hotel and what it will be,” Milde said Monday.
Some site work on the Washington Street properties has already occurred. Milde said workers are expected to be back inside the Adelphi property this week.
Construction is expected to be completed in time for summer 2016, with the exception of work on the new building. Still unclear is how the 18,000-square-foot parish house — leased to Bethesda until 2017 and separated from Richbell’s other properties by the Universal Preservation Hall — will be incorporated into the Adelphi holdings.
A new steel support structure will replace the compromised trusses, helping to stabilize the building well into the next century. Once work on the hotel is completed, the company will be eligible for between $6 million and $8 million in federal and state historic tax credits.
“It’s a building that deserves to be saved,” Milde said. “The Adelphi is an asset and has a history and a good will you really can’t recreate.”
Built on the site of the Adelphia Tavern and Inn, the four-story Adelphi opened in 1877 and quickly became a noted stop for some of the city’s most famous visitors of the time. Though much smaller than its grand neighbors on Broadway, the Adelphi featured many modern innovations its neighbors lacked: Elevators, individual bathrooms, steam heat that allowed it to remain open year-round and a unique second-floor piazza that separated patrons from the bustle of Broadway.
The hotel remained viable until the 1950s, when a developer proposed removing the piazza and gutting the Victorian-era decor in favor of something more fitting of the time. But the plan never came to fruition and the hotel was ultimately shuttered during the 1970s.
Sheila Parkert and Gregg Siefker bought the vacant, boarded-up building for $100,000 in 1978, when the hotel was just months away from demolition. The new owners gradually transformed the lobby and 39 rooms to their former grandeur.
Richbell Capital purchased the hotel for $4.5 million in 2012 and operated it for a season before closing for a down-to-the-studs renovation. The project was initially expected to wrap up sometime before summer 2014.
Work appeared to stall last winter, after temporary supports were put in place. But while the hotel appeared devoid of activity, Milde said work behind the scenes never ceased.
“We never ever looked at walking away from this deal,” he said.