OAKHURST — Charred remains of the old lodge sat in ruins all last summer, and many wondered why, while others drove past without even glancing over at the once-booming business. That’s all changing now, as the Oakhurst Lodge is being renovated and the rooms engulfed in flames last spring are undergoing demolition and clean-up.
The place is set to open tout de suite, as French visitors might say, or with all haste in English, and the landmark lodge is now under new management. Demolition by R. Papike Construction began Friday, Nov. 1, as heavy equipment was brought in to tear down the structure in the center front of the property that burned in May when a fire started in a trash can.
Roughly half of the building was left standing when the embers cooled, and the demo plan was to crush the estimated 100 tons of refuse, breaking it down into small pieces and pushing it into the basement beneath the rubble, then moving it into refuse bins to be hauled away, according to contractor Randy Papike.
With Scotty Johnson deftly maneuvering the big John Deere 200LC excavator and Travis Papike on a mini-CAT, fairly quick work was being made onsite and the team, including five members of the Papike family, plans to wrap up the job this week.
Many remember when fire tore through the mid-century building just after midnight on May 23, prompting an evacuation of the nearly full hotel. The fire ran the length of the building throughout the basement, and swarmed the attic, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson. Soon, the entire building was fully involved and flames could be seen from miles around. Chief Christopherson confirmed that the fire started in the center of the building.
30 firefighters were at the scene as of 2 a.m. that Thursday morning last May, with six Cal Fire Engines and five from Madera County Fire Department.
“We’ve had no injuries and the cause is under investigation,” said Christopherson later that day. “The loss to the business is estimated at $1 million.”
Following the fire, Madera County closed down the property, reportedly due to unsafe conditions and violations including long-term tenants, and Oakhurst Lodge fell into receivership with First Citizens Bank. The bank appointed Providence Hospitality Partners out of Denver, Colorado, to manage the property.
Rather than sending out of town reps in to manage the lodge, Providence Hospitality hired area resident Lanie Suderman to do the job.
“Providence has been amazing at staying local with vendors, contractors and employees,” says Suderman, who has worked extensively in the industry, including 12 years at The Pines Resort where she was front office manager, along with handling sales and marketing.
Some of the local companies who have worked on the property recently include Sierra Plumbing, Andrews Electric and Oakhurst Locksmith.
“We hope to re-open Oakhurst Lodge by Nov. 11 and we have completed 31 of 33 rooms with major renovations including brand new beds, paint, carpet, linens, and amenities,” says Suderman enthusiastically.
Plans are to continue improvements for the time being, and that Providence is expected to remain as the management group for Oakhurst Lodge through 2014.
For further information email Manager Lanie Suderman.