Renovator gives new lease on life to long-dormant Sharon Springs hotel

Joe Mahoney | The Daily StarGary O’Connor, left, a contractor from Cobleskill, stands Tuesday with Ron Ketelsen on the porch of the historic Roseboro Hotel in Sharon Springs. Ketelsen plans to open a variety of businesses in the building in the coming year and hopes to have the first floor open for holiday celebrations this winter.

SHARON SPRINGS — Once an elegant resort that beckoned vacationers from New York City to this tidy village off U.S. Route 20, the old Roseboro Hotel hasn’t been occupied in decades.

Enduring winter after winter without heat has taken a conspicuous toll on the sprawling combination of edifices that together offer 45,000 square feet of space.

The walls beg for paint, the floors need sanding and the necessary structural improvements include leveling the building and addressing the buckling of floor supports here and there.

But it’s all work that Sharon Springs’ newest resident, Ron Ketelsen, said he is eager to tackle as he moves forward with his ambitious plans to restore the Roseboro and once again make it a vital part of the fabric of the village on the western edge of Schoharie County.

Over the weekend, a tractor-trailer crammed with Ketelsen’s furnishings and boxes of personal effects from his former home in California’s Silicon Valley pulled in front of the Roseboro.

On Tuesday, a team of movers lugged boxes from the jumbo rig up the wide front stairway of the hotel, pausing on the hotel’s front porch as Ketelsen directed them to their destinations within the building.

“Put that in the hallway because it’s office supplies and paper,” he was telling one of the movers just as a reporter approached and asked for an impromptu interview about his ambitious venture.

Ketelsen agreed to talk about the project in detail, and even gave a brief tour of the building, pointing out the ballroom where he plans to participate in the village’s Victorian Holiday Festival in December, and display the many Christmas decorations he has collected over the years. He also plans to have an exhibit of memorabilia from the Titanic disaster.

Before the hotel part of the business returns, he said, he will have a new sprinkler system installed in the building. That is likely to be one of the more-expensive necessities in a renovation project Ketelsen estimated will run him about $2 million.

He’s retained Cobleskill contractor Gary O’Connor to spearhead many of the improvement projects. O’Connor said he has already replaced 20 to 30 broken windows and one of his next order of business will be re-pointing the chimney.

“There is a little buckling down to do before winter,” Ketelsen said.

After Ketelsen was first interviewed about the project last spring, before he actually closed on the real estate purchase, the deal was delayed and some in the community said they were concerned that arrangement might fall apart.

Ketelsen said he became aware of those rumblings as he remained focused on completing the purchase. “It was never a question of if, but when,” he said, noting the sale of his California house took longer than expected.

He said he is excited about the potential possessed by Sharon Springs, a village that is now featured regularly in travel publications and is home to the Beekman Boys of television fame, and has experienced the rebirth of the American Hotel, which has won a series of historic preservation awards since being reopened in 2001 by Doug Plummer, now the village mayor, and his husband, Garth Roberts.

Given the considerable work that needs to go into the Roseboro, Ketelsen said he has a sequential strategy for tackling the various projects before him. He said he hopes to have parts of the first floor open in the coming year, offering a restaurant and retail shops.

“Things are going to be phased in, so we will focus first on the areas that will bring in income immediately,” said Ketelsen, 56, a human resources consultant for high-tech companies in California. He said he will continue to work remotely for his West Coast clients in his spare time, noting the time zone difference makes it easier to get on top of projects while his former California neighbors are still sleeping.

The Roseboro harkens back to an era when such cross-country jaunts were anything but the norm. It grew out of three separate hotels all built in the 19th Century — the Howland House, the oldest of the structures, the Rosenberg Hotel and the Rosenberg House. They were connected in 1900, resulting in the 45,000 square foot building that stands today but has not operated as a hotel since 1968.

For his own living space, Ketelsen said he is eying the top floor for a 3,500-square-foot penthouse. He also has plans to add a dozen chandeliers in the hotel’s grand ballroom and restore the manual Otis elevator installed in 1939.

Fascinated with the history of his new acquisition, Ketelsen said the dining room had once been one of the prayer rooms used by the Rosenberg family, the original owners of the hotel, and their guests.

A native of Iowa and an accomplished pianist, Ketelsen said he sees a strong future ahead for Sharon Springs and its businesses, including the Roseboro.

“I’m only restricted by time and money,” he said. “It’s a unique thing to be in a small village such as this. It really is a wonderful place.”

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