LEWISTON — In its past, the Frontier House was a hotel that had housed famous guests of its day.
Now that life looks to be returning to the historic landmark.
Building owner Ellicott Development announced plans to turn the building into a mixed-use space that would have commercial uses on the ground floor and residential and rental units for its second and third floors. Eleven dwelling units in total are planned, five market-rate residential units and six short-term rental units similar to those offered on Airbnb.
Tom Fox, the Director of Development for Ellicott, said there has been interest in turning the ground floor into a boutique restaurant or retail space and they do not want to single anyone out at this time.
“Those would serve the building well and the Center Street corridor in Lewiston,” Fox said.
Ellicott Development purchased the building from previous owners in 2019 and had been doing planning work on what to put inside it during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fox hopes that as it wraps up the last of the required documents within the next month and applies for a building permit, construction work will start by the end of summer or early fall and the new spaces will be open by the end of summer 2023.
The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, has not had any tenants since a McDonald’s location inside it closed in 2004.
During the redevelopment work, several changes will be made to the building to make it look as it did during the 1800s. This includes restoring whatever interior finishes are inside, installing new windows that are more historically accurate, adding elements to the front facade, removing non-historic shutters that were on the second and third floors, and restoring a rear porch that was previously removed. Some outside masonry work that had deteriorated will also be repaired along with other structural repairs.
Fox said Ellicott Development had to work with the state historic preservation office and U.S. Park Service through the planning review process, with the former had reportedly approved the exterior and interior renovations to go ahead. That approval was required due to the building’s status on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We didn’t want to start work without their blessing,” Fox said.
Ellicott Development was granted historic tax credits, a facade grant from Niagara County, and a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, sales tax abatement through construction and mortgage recording tax exemption from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for this rehabilitation work.
Tom Collister, the curator of the Lewiston Museum, said the new development would be a good use for that space. The Historical Association of Lewiston and other organizations were involved in getting the Frontier House on the National Register.
“I’m glad it’s going to be open sometime in the future,” he said.
The Frontier House, as Collister put it, was one of the finest hotels west of the Appalachian mountains when it opened in the 1820’s, also serving as a restaurant and a stagecoach depot. Some of the guests that stayed at the hotel in its history included President William McKinley, Gov. Dewitt Clinton, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.
“It’s one of the most important buildings in Lewiston,” Collister said. “Everyone from outside that comes here asks what it is and will it ever be reopened.”