By Camaron Abundes
BIG SPRING- 'A landmark you'll never forget' Governor Rick Perry declared at the ground breaking ceremony for the restoration of the Settles Hotel, expected to wrap up by January of 2010. Governor Perry along with other lawmakers including Big Spring Mayor Russ McEwen spoke before a packed crowd, Thursday afternoon.
"It goes back and remind us of the Glory days of the 20's and 30's when Big Spring, Texas was an extraordinarily vibrant city and it can be again and it will be again," Governor Rick Perry, (R) Texas, said.
Owner and Manager of the Settles Hotel Development Company, LLC. Brint Ryan talked about the plans and thanked area lawmakers for their support. Ryan says the restored lobby and ballroom will follow the original architectural designs.
According to Mayor McEwen back in 1930 the entire Hotel built by W.R. Settles had a price tag of $500,000 dollars. McEwen says the restoration project will cost 20 million dollars.
"This is what downtown needs," Big Spring Resident Terry Jenkins, said. "I grew up here. I remember the hotel. I remember it went away. The old memories are coming back and I think it's a fantastic deal for Big Spring."
Nila Allen worked at the front desk long before the Settles close in the 1980's.
"I learned to meet a lot of people in a day but it was so much fun," Allen said.
Evlyn Coker, 93, recalls the lights and the towering building as a highlight of her life. Coker says she attended dances with her late husband in the ballroom.
"As a child I don't know what it was about seeing all the stories rise up there," Coker said, "On pay day my friend and I would eat in the Coffee shop."
Governor Perry took part in the nostalgia. He said he visited Big Spring with his Uncle Gene during his childhood.
"Pulling into town, coming out of Paint Creek, Texas, seeing that building right there, I thought that was the biggest building in Texas, " Governor Perry said, who also said after college in 1972 entered Pilot training at Webb Air force Base in Big Spring. "36 years ago, I showed up here and that was still what I thought was the biggest building in Texas."
Developers and lawmakers hope the restoration of the 78-year-old building will create a ripple effect in the downtown area.