150-year-old National Hotel is for sale | TheUnion.com
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150-year-old National Hotel is for sale

Nevada City’s landmark National Hotel is up for sale, owner Tom Coleman confirmed on Wednesday.

Coleman has been considering offers, and he is preparing to list the 150-year-old building with his own real estate agency in four to six months.

“I got the rumor started,” said Coleman, who has owned the hotel for the past 27 years, counting on word to spread through the community.



The hotel, one of the oldest in the West, is a registered historic landmark. Its guests have included Herbert Hoover, Black Bart and Lola Montez. PG&E was formed in one of the hotel’s suites. It is still one of the region’s most popular meeting spots.

Offers to buy the hotel have come in every few months since Coleman bought the place. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that he began considering them. Now he is working to meet state and county regulations, getting his accounting in order, and sprucing up the building before listing it through his own Terra Alta Real Estate.




“I like to have all my ducks in a row,” Coleman said.

So far he hasn’t set a price, only hinting that the historic hotel was worth more than $1 million and under $10 million. “Of course I’ve thought about it,” he said. “I am an appraiser.” Coleman said he needed time to do a comparative analysis.

Some informal estimates run in the $4 million to $6 million range, not including any remodeling. Older hotels like the National in other small California cities have changed hands in recent years, and some of the suites have been expanded and remodeled as loft housing as part of the hotel, bar and dining room complex.

For the past 20 years Coleman has been working at The National Hotel, often from noon to midnight six days a week, but said he isn’t tired.

“No, no, it’s kept me young,” he said over coffee at a window table in the bar. “Greed is not the motivating factor. I’m 68. It’s time to pass the baton to a younger owner with fresh ideas.”

He plans to stay in Nevada City after he sells, perhaps helping out the new owners or buying more commercial properties.

Coleman bought the hotel in 1979 but wouldn’t say for how much. He did say, however, that he sold nine properties to buy it. “I was a tenant of the building, and I wanted to secure my occupancy,” he said.

It was the condition of the all-brick building, with no cracks in its walls, that attracted him. He said it was in good shape when he bought it, and he has been maintaining it ever since.

Some visitors complain that the building has fallen into disrepair, and some hotel guests complain that the rooms need a major upgrade.

But Coleman said the building has no serious issues. “Really, someone could walk in and start operation right now,” he said.

Three walls recently have been painted in the trademark green and white, leaving the facade still in need of fresh coats. A new verandah was installed several years ago and a new metal roof was added five years ago. Other upgrades include new sprinkler, plumbing and electrical systems.

The hotel’s 42 Victorian-themed rooms are getting a facelift along with the antiquated plumbing of the 1940-50s’ era bathrooms. Rooms run $74 to $134 a night, and weekends are booked nine months out of the year, according to Coleman.

The hotel’s decor has not changed much over the years, with its dark wood, dim lighting, antique collections, faded red Victorian velvet draperies on the windows, worn paisley print carpet and red and gold patterned wallpaper. The old style is not for everyone, Coleman said, adding that “yuppies” who visit his hotel don’t appreciate buildings that are old.

Coleman contends The National is the longest running, continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, while others counter it is the oldest hotel west of the Rockies.

The National Hotel survived three fires during Nevada City’s early days. Back then it was considered the hub of the community. It was a stage stop, telegraph center and general meeting place for the county.

“That’s what The National Hotel was,” Coleman said. “It’s still that to a lesser degree.” As he spoke, a group of men in their 60s saddled up to the bar for beers.

Coleman says leaving The National won’t be easy. “It’s like losing a good wife.”


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