Relics photo essay: Senior living at the Buckman Hotel in Little Falls

The stately Buckman Hotel sits on a corner lot in downtown Little Falls. Construction of the original Buckman was completed in early 1893 and the building was rebuilt after a 1901 fire. The building is now home to 24 apartments for individuals ages 62 and older and those physically challenged regardless of age. (Ann Arbor Miller for MPR)

The Buckman Hotel was built by Pennsylvania-born farmer and former Minnesota state legislator and Congressman Clarence Buckman, who wanted someplace nice to stay when he was in Little Falls. It was known as the city’s first class hotel.

But it didn’t stay that way. Over the years, the building deteriorated, until it was rundown and underutilized. Given the hotel’s prominent downtown location, the city went in search of someone who could transform the building.

How small communities around the state remake old buildings is the focus of our Ground Level project, Reviving Minnesota Relics.

They found a partner in Twin Cities-based MetroPlains, which restored many of its historic features—finding stained glass entombed in a wall and rebuilding the main staircase—and turned it into senior housing.

“It was a dirty and nasty place,” said architect and MetroPlains co-president Vern Hanson, who worked on the project. “But if you could see behind all the nastiness, you had a gem sitting there.”

“The city and the economic development authority all knew this landmark was important to maintaining the main street,” Hanson said. “It’s one of the most significant structures in the downtown. They had incredible good vision for the future.”

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