Historic Hotels Restored, Others Linger


In Harlingen, the Reese-Wil-Mond opened in 1927 to become a centerpiece of the city’s downtown.

Later, it became known as the Reese Hotel before the Harlingen Housing Authority began operating it as Heritage Manor in 1970.

By 2005, the agency had shut the doors of the 73,000-square-foot building.

Then in 2009, Jo Rae Wagner planned to transform part of the city’s downtown when her company, CTO Inc., bought the five-story building for about $400,000.

“I envisioned a multipurpose building with a restaurant,” Wagner said.

A year later, she and her son Todd Aune launched the renovation project that’s cost her about $6 million “so far,” she said.

“We looked at what was here in 1927. It was a beautiful building so we wanted to keep the exterior as close as we could” to the original Reese, she said.

“We actually had to take the building down to the brick,” she said.

In 2011, Wagner opened her version of the Reese, featuring Colletti’s Italian Restaurant along with a fifth-floor events center.

“We’ve become a destination,” Wagner said, referring to the restaurant that draws customers from across the Valley. “People love the ambience. They say they forget they’re in Harlingen and think they’re in a big city.”

On the second, third and fourth floors, she plans office space and maybe a boutique hotel, she said.

“It’s very attractive to the downtown area,” she said of the project. “We tried to do it so the community can benefit. It’s a great feeling to know people love it as much as I do.”

Since the late 1980s, Gustavo Acevedo dreamed of buying the San Juan Hotel, a Texas Historical Landmark that’s one of the upper Valley’s oldest buildings.

“I’d seen it gradually deteriorate and I thought, ‘Man, that would be a good place to fix up,”’ Acevedo said.

In 2006, Acevedo, who worked as an attorney for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district, bought the building from then-school board member Roy Rodriguez.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the building’s age and architecture – the Spanish revival style,” Acevedo said. “I’ve always been a history buff. It’s a unique building for the Valley. The Spanish revival architecture is very unique in terms of hotels.”

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2012 and filed under Feature Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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