Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading set to cease operations

18-story downtown landmark last of city's original nine grand hotels

READING, Pa. - Nearly 10 months after downtown Reading celebrated the opening of its second hotel, the other hotel -- a center city landmark -- is now set to close.

The historic Abraham Lincoln Hotel at North Fifth and Washington streets will cease operating as a hotel in the coming weeks, its owner, developer Alan Shuman, announced Friday, adding that 104 rooms will be converted into approximately 50 apartment units. Extended stay rooms will also be converted into apartments.

"To be able to stay in an 18-story apartment building in the center of the county, with fabulous views of the Pagoda, will hopefully attract the young professionals we're trying to move in here," Shuman said.

Several floors of the 86-year-old building already house apartments.

Shuman paid more than $5 million in 2013 to buy the hotel and its attached 310-space parking garage. Shuman later dropped the hotel's affiliation with the Wyndham Hotel Group, choosing instead to be an independent hotel.

This year, the hotel stands to lose as much as $800,000, with revenue down 50 percent, according to Shuman, who blames center city's other hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton at 701 Penn Street, for forcing him to close the Lincoln, telling 69 News that the 209-room DoubleTree, which opened in December 2015, has failed in its promise to bring conventions to the city.

"So, to keep that hotel open, they've really been pulling business out of the other hotels in the area, not just this one," Shuman said.

Craig Poole, the DoubleTree's general manager, told 69 News that he doesn't want the Lincoln to close.

"It's a shame," Poole said. "We need another hotel."

Poole added that the DoubleTree is committed to the transformation of the city and that visitors are looking for more modern hotels.

The Lincoln will stop renting rooms on November 1. Thirty-five employees could lose their jobs as a result of the hotel's closure. They were told of the decision in a meeting Friday morning.

The restaurant and bar will remain open, Shuman said.

Opened on March 23, 1930, the Lincoln is the only remaining hotel of Reading's original nine grand hotels, according to its website.

Eleanor Roosevelt spoke from a balcony in the Lincoln's lobby, and bandleader and music composer John Philips Sousa suffered a heart attack and died at the hotel after conducting Reading's Ringgold Band on March 6, 1932.

"There's a lot of really interesting things with the hotel here," Shuman said. "We're glad to have the property. We're glad to be able to continue the restoration work, but there's going to be a little of a different use."

The hotel fell on hard times in the 1980s and closed for nearly a decade until 1997, when new owners gave it a complete overhaul. Their goal was to recapture the look the Lincoln had when it first opened 65 years earlier.

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