Renovation of Nevada City’s National Hotel gets under way (Video) |

Renovation of Nevada City’s National Hotel gets under way (Video)

Jordan Fife, the National Exchange Hotel's owner, walks through the third floor of the historic hotel during work Wednesday afternoon. With the hotel's former furniture removed, the toll of time on the building and the need for restoration became more apparent. Now workers can focus on the restoration of the historic elements of the building before demolition work begins.
Elias Funez/

It’s been an arduous process so far.

But Jordan Fife, who bought Nevada City’s iconic National Hotel in February, remains excited about the renovation of the long-neglected hotel.

He has also remained optimistic about his initial, aggressive timeline for the multi-million dollar restoration — which will include a complete renovation of the interior to rectify code violations and a roof replacement — and still expects to reopen by November.

Fife has said that the National Exchange Hotel Company will be the launch of the brand’s flagship location in Nevada City. The company is funded by Eastern Real Estate and its niche market will be “mid-level luxury” hotels.

Fife and his team have been working steadily to empty the hotel of the accumulated decades of tables, chairs, mattresses, and even pool equipment, all of which seemingly was stuffed in nooks and crannies and unused rooms rather than thrown away.

“We found rooms upon rooms with so much (stuff) that the entryways were blocked,” Fife said. “In some, we ended up going through the windows to get in. There were 15 mattresses in one room alone.”

According to Fife the crew has even been discovering hidden rooms, spaces that were not on any of the plans.

“Part of this has been a discovery process,” he said. “Some of them have been exciting, some have been a little cringe-worthy.”

But, Fife said, after the first long slog, his team is finally off to the races.

This week, they have started the removal of moldings and other pieces of architectural detail prior to demolition and construction.

“We want to be careful not to damage the charm and character of the National,” Fife said.

It would be cheaper just to replace those pieces with brand-new versions, he said, but added, “The chips and nicks are part of the authenticity.”

Everything will be coded, labeled and inventoried after it is removed and blanket-wrapped, he said.

The actual construction is expected to begin within the next few weeks, Fife said.

While he wants to keep as much of the footprint and layout as possible, the hotel needs to be made ADA-compliant, and all the hotel rooms have to be outfitted with their own bathrooms.

The process of stripping the National down has been integral to re-imagining the hotel.

“To be able to see the space in its bare elements … it helps me recognize how beautiful it really is,” Fife said. “Once you see the building naked, so to speak, it changes how we look at things. Less is more. We want the bones to show through.”

During the last two months, the design of the revamped hotel has become much more of a living organism and has transformed “a lot” since the initial concept, he said.

“Before, I was inspired by the building’s history, and now I’m inspired by the actual building,” Fife said, with plans to riff off multiple textures and patterns “in a more modern way.”

Fife has been spending a fair amount of time in town these days, living in the hotel while he’s here.

And, he says, he has been buoyed by Nevada City’s energy.

“We’re happy to be a part of this,” he said, “There are so many people here doing exciting things.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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