The future of the Frontier House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places but vacant since 2004, now rests with one of Western New York’s leading developers.
The Lewiston landmark was sold for $800,000 to a new entity, 4600 Group LLC, half-owned by William A. Paladino, CEO of Ellicott Development Co.
Jeffrey Williams, onetime Niagara County Legislature clerk, owns 25 percent of 4600 Group, and the Jerome Williams Trust owns the remaining 25 percent.
Built as a hotel, the 195-year-old Center Street building was a place to stay for famous guests that included Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and President William McKinley. Signs listing its most famous guests hung above its front porch.
It was last used as a McDonald’s restaurant.
Tuesday’s sale marked a happy ending for those who wanted the building to remain in private hands.
Last June, the Village of Lewiston agreed to buy the building from Richard A. Hastings for $800,000 and then seek proposals from developers. That purchase never happened.
The controversial deal played a role in Anne C. Welch, an opponent of the idea, winning the mayoral election days after the deal’s announcement.
“I couldn’t be more pleased. This will be a great thing for Lewiston,” Welch said of the sale. “It’s the jewel of the village. Over the years, people wanted it restored, and now it will be.”
“From a taxpayer point of view, it cost the taxpayers nothing,” said Village Attorney Joseph L. Leone Jr. “It ended up being a private transaction the village was able to facilitate.”
“Without Mayor Welch’s leadership, this wouldn’t have happened,” Jeffrey Williams said. “She called everybody 25 times a day. From the day she took office, she was determined to make sure the Frontier House ended up in private hands.”
Welch said a boutique hotel is a possible use for the building. Paladino did not return a call seeking comment, and Jeffrey Williams said he didn’t know what the eventual use would be.
Under former Mayor Terry C. Collesano, the village put heat on Hastings over 19 alleged code violations on the outside of the building. A sale to a Texas developer, announced in late 2017, fell through after the buyer balked at the renovation expense.
Hastings bought the three-story stone building for $270,000 in 2000.
Hastings resisted selling the property for years, apparently hoping to redevelop it himself.
“Mr. Hastings is now 78 years old and in poor health,” said his attorney, Damon A. DeCastro. “He did not think he would be able to see that project through.”
Leone said the building’s National Register status means little change will be allowed to the exterior. Any project would need to be approved by Lewiston’s Village Board, Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission.