The Historic Ward Hotel: Building on a Vision
The railroad’s prominence in Aberdeen’s founding years was the main attraction for Eastern businessmen to pioneer here. Alonzo Ward arrived here in 1883, started a lunch counter, and developed the first Alonzo Ward Hotel on the corner of First and Main, downtown Aberdeen. However, as often happened to pioneers, the hotel burned to the ground in 1926. Not to be deterred, he built this building, and opened its doors on May 15, 1928, to a state dentist convention. The 120-room, six-story hotel was supposedly fireproof, modern in all respects, and over the years, hosted many celebrities and prominent people passing through Aberdeen. Alonzo died a year later, leaving the business to his son, Alonzo Ward, II.
In 1964 the building was sold and passed through many hands after that. Soon the hotel portion was closed, a couple shops still rented the ground level spaces, and a restaurant would pop up from time to time. In 2004, Blackstone Developers (Tom Aman and Norg Sanderson) launched a plan to make the Ward Hotel the place to live downtown as part of a multi-building investment in downtown. Upscale condos were built in the upper floors, the ballroom was restored, a restaurant was reestablished, several hotel rooms were restored on the second floor and a four-level parking ramp was built to the west. It was a mini convention hall and hosted many weddings and events over the years.
Blackstone Developers recently sold the building to Hub City Downtown, LLC. Led by Jim Thares (Founder/CEO Primrose Retirement Communities), work began once again to transform the Ward Hotel into yet another version of itself. In February, the doors were opened to the public. The condos remained, Roma Ristorante Italiano was relocated to the back portion of the ground level, the lobby was reconfigured, The Finery Men’s Clothing Store opened in one of the retail spaces, and to the surprise of many, the ballroom space was converted to several hotel rooms, making 18 hotel rooms in total on the second floor. It is a bright, modern hotel now with self-check-in, quiet, spacious rooms, a fitness room, laundry, free guest parking and hints of historic charm throughout. Downtown is transforming right before our eyes. Alonzo Ward took a risk because he had a vision that the prairie town of Aberdeen was destined to be great. But that very greatness comes from pioneers like him, developers like Blackstone, and entrepreneurs like Hub City Downtown, LLC, all of whom continue to move Aberdeen progressively forward. //