The first time Rick Dover stepped foot into Oak Ridge’s Alexander Inn, he fell through the floor. “It was completely rotted and it had leaking roofs and windows and a complete lack of any care or maintenance,” he says. “It was leaning and rotting and falling and it would not have gone much longer.”
Dover’s company, Family Pride Corporation, is now responsible for renovating the abandoned, dilapidated building and turning it into an assisted living facility. Dover says he hopes to open the facility in the summer of 2014.
Dover was one of several local officials and on-hand Thursday morning to give public tours of the 70 year-old inn.
Built in 1943 to house Manhattan Project leaders visiting Oak Ridge, the “Guest House” played host to such notable officials as General Leslie Groves, Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer. After World War II, it was converted to a hotel and was renamed the Alexander Inn in 1950.
After serving for years as a hotel and popular restaurant, it was left empty in the mid 1990’s. Since then, it’s fallen into severe disrepair. Family Pride completed its purchase of the building in May.
Dover acknowledges it might have been less expensive to raze the building. “But when you do that,” he says, “you lose the fabric of the community. Because the only thing that really endures are the stories and the buildings.”
Family Pride Corporation is based in Loudon, Tenn. and specializes in converting historic buildings into senior living facilities.
The $5.5 million renovation project was arranged through a series of agreements between Family Pride, the city of Oak Ridge, the city’s Industrial Development Board, the Department of Energy, Knox Heritage and the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. The transaction includes an easement that guarantees the building will be preserved forever.
“This is a building of national prominence and to allow this to fall down would have been a travesty,” Dover says. “And it was close.”