The Frontier House, one of the oldest buildings in the region and for generations a focal point of the Village of Lewiston, is being sold.
The Center Street landmark is being sold for $800,000, confirmed Stacey C. Sheehan, a consultant to Hastings Hospitality, the current owners. She would not identify the buyer.
The onetime hotel, built in 1824 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, has been vacant for 13 years.
Dian Ruta of Great Lakes Real Estate, the realtor who brokered the deal, said the buyer is an American who lives out of state, but not in Georgia, as some reports in the village claimed.
Sheehan said the purchaser is "not originally from our area, but has close ties to our community."
Alan Hastings, the president of Hastings Hospitality, said he expects the sale to close in mid-January. Sheehan said there is a "due diligence" period for the buyer to check out the building's needs.
Village inspectors recently filed 19 exterior building code violations against Hastings, but Zoning Officer Edward Devantier said the village won't pursue them in court - for the time being.
"For now, if there's good-faith efforts between the Hastings family and the new owners, we won't move forward," Devantier said. "We're not going to ignore it."
He said the building's interior has not been inspected recently. "There could be additional infractions," Devantier said.
"It's got a good roof and it's got a good foundation. It needs some (stone) repointing," Hastings said.
Building Inspector Kenneth Candella said the building needs painting and new gutters.
"Cornices are ready to fall out," he said. "There's a lot of broken windows."
Hastings said he signed a nondisclosure agreement to protect the buyer's identity, but he's confident the Frontier House will be in good hands.
"I'm optimistic we finally have somebody who will treat the Frontier House the way it deserves to be treated," Hasting said. "Its bicentennial is coming up. They're going to remodel it. They're going to fix it up. They're not going to wait around."
The village Historic Preservation Commission will have a say in the exterior look of the building.
"They can make changes if we allow them to," commission chairman Harry W. Wright said.
But the commission has no jurisdiction over the interior, as was shown by the Frontier House's last use. It was a highly atypical McDonald's, with two weight-bearing pillars in front of the counter and drive-through food delivered to the passenger side of cars. It closed in 2004.
For most of its history, the Frontier House was a hotel whose front porch used to display signs naming celebrities who had stayed there in the 19th century. They included President William McKinley, authors Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, politicians Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, opera star Jenny Lind and heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan.
"I think this is the longest it's ever been vacant," Wright said. "We want to see, as much as anyone in the village, that's it's fixed up."