Sunday, October 12, 2003
Lindsborg When vandals recently broke into the old Brunswick Hotel in Lindsborg, they threw a huge mirror over the staircase, breaking the glass and revealing portions of a 100-year-old Kansas City newspaper tucked behind the mounting.
The Brunswick's new owners plan to frame and exhibit the remnants of the paper when they have their grand opening at Svensk Hyllningsfest next weekend.
"We'll have the place open as kind of a welcome center," says Kathi Patterson, who is re-opening the historic hotel with her husband, Eric Monder. "People can come, sit down and hang out. We'll probably sell coffee and tea."
Patterson and Monder are calling their new home and business the Brunswick Plaza to honor the rich history of the hotel and acknowledge the old Plaza Theatre, Lindsborg's one and only cinema that closed its doors 20 years ago.
Though the 35-room Brunswick sat empty for more than two years, in its glory days the hotel played host to such famous guests as President Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and Wild Bill Hickock.
"It's a handsome, dignified building," Kathi says, making a wide gesture with her arm toward the grand staircase that graces the lobby. "I hope people can appreciate that as we undo some of the damage that has been done."
'An authentic town'
Originally a three-story building, in 1976 the top floor was found to be structurally unsound. The pyramid-shaped roof was hoisted off with a crane and then placed on the second floor after the third floor was removed.
The building's most significant feature, Patterson says, is the ballroom with its six "beautiful" stained glass windows. Despite a few cosmetic concerns -- and the third-floor renovation -- the building has remained in remarkably good shape since it was erected in 1887 from local brick trimmed in limestone from Manhattan.
Patterson and Monder, who also own P/M Productions, are filmmakers and writers who recently moved to Lindsborg from New York City. They plan to live on the Brunswick's second floor, while using the first floor as a venue for art exhibits, meetings, events and media presentations. Monder's mother, Theo Sable, is coming from New York for the opening and will be the first artist to exhibit her work in the Brunswick Plaza. She makes ceramics and jewelry that Monder describes as whimsical and dramatic.
Though not officially open, the Brunswick Plaza already has booked a wedding, a family reunion and a Hyllningsfest party in the ballroom. In the old sample room, salesmen from trains that once ran through town used to display and sell their wares. Now it will be used as a viewing room to show films, feature speakers and business presentations.
"I think it's a wonderful thing," says Karen Olson, the head librarian at Lindsborg's public library. "Anything that will help this town be fully occupied has to be good. Economically we are all struggling right now."
Lindsborg, also known as Little Sweden, serves as a center for artists while preserving its old-world charm. Relishing their Swedish heritage, Lindsborg's population of 3,200 greets more than 10,000 people each odd-numbered year with the traditional Svensk Hyllningsfest to honor early Swedish pioneers in Lindsborg. The festival featured traditional Swedish costumes and a parade with floats and music.
"People come here not as tourists, but to get a sense of belonging," Olson explains. "This is an authentic town. Eighty-seven families still speak Swedish."
'Heart of the community'
Patterson first visited Lindsborg 25 years ago with her brother and future sister-in-law, Paula Jaderborg, a native of Lindsborg. Paula's father, Hilding Jaderborg, was the first business owner in Lindsborg to display the Dala horse at his shop for business purposes. That was in 1946. Now the colorful horses can be found in front of many stores and on most corners in the downtown area."This building has been here for over 100 years, and it's always been kind of the heart of the community," Patterson says of the Brunswick as she sits at the conference table in her library, a room that was previously used to sell gifts and souvenirs. "Many people in town have worked here, eaten here and even lived here, so it's been a part of people's lives in an important way. To see it being neglected and abandoned was really sad, so I'm hoping we can change that, bring some joy into this place."
Patterson, who grew up and attended film school in Iowa, came to Lindsborg three years ago to renovate a 100-year old house. Working with the cooperation of the Kansas Historic Preservation Office and local PBS affiliates, she documented the process for her film project, "Your Historic House." Now she is documenting her efforts to restore the Brunswick to a more authentic state.
Monder is a native New Yorker who wrote the only book on film director George Sidney. He taught film classes in New York and Connecticut and continues to produce and write film reviews for three magazines. When asked if he misses New York City, he says simply, "No."
"For me," he continues, "this building offers an opportunity for us to bring all of our interests in art, film and preservation together under one roof. We'll be testing the waters in the beginning with series and events built around different films."
He says he'd like to feature local filmmaking enterprises and festivals about Kansas films and filmmakers. He'd also like to explore films relevant to the town's Swedish heritage and a film series for young people.
"Eventually I'd like to make it a museum," Patterson says of the Brunswick. "I have a lot of things I'd like to display slowly over time, and I'd like people to know about the history of the building. When it was built in the Victorian Era, it was considered very modern for its time. Now we can appreciate how that's lasted. I'd also like to put a third floor back on the building, but that will be some time in the future."
Gloria Walker is a freelance writer staying at Brunswick Plaza while between homes.