Anthony Melchiorri found that it really would take a village to save and maintain the historic Hotel Leger in California's Gold Rush country, on Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible.
The roar of the crowd that gathered in the street outside the Hotel Leger rang in Anthony Melchiorri's ears.
He wasn't in Calaveras County, California merely to keep a state landmark alive. He was there to keep a drowning town from going down for the final time.
And what a town it is. It was one of the hubs of the Gold Rush era of the mid to late 1800's. The town and Hotel Leger played a role in that time in history, but the hotel was about to go under and could take the town with it.
Hotel Impossible's usual tight deadlines to get a hotel back up and running got extended for this special episode.
Blanche, Anthony Melchiorri's amazing designer and all around hard working gal looked at him when tasked with the chore of restoring parts of the Hotel Leger and just said no.
Blanche has done so before but has come around to Anthony's way of thinking and pulled off miracles.
This time no truly meant no. She'd need a cast of thousands she told him.
Melchiorri found her that cast, but only after he came as close as he ever had to telling the hotel owner that even his wondrous talents were not enough.
Then he got an idea that made him the local hero.
But first, a proper check-in area had to be fashioned from unused space.
The lack of a readily available front desk has been somewhat of a theme this season on Hotel Impossible. Read about the front desk mess at the Triangle T Ranch .
Checking in at the saloon between bartenders mixing and serving drinks was a first, even for the well traveled Melchiorri.
With a town that had dwindled from some 15,000 residents to merely 500 and a freeway system that had passed it by, the Hotel Leger was ready to close.
It was full of locals every night and it was run more as a tavern than a hotel.
The townspeople were connected to it and not just as a place to gather. Some had lived there, worked there and been on first dates at the Leger. It was a childhood memory they didn't want to lose.
What would draw customers without convenient shopping, sights of interest, amenities and the other things that travelers say they want when they pick a spot to vacation?
How about a jail in the hotel? The Hotel Leger had housed the local jail back in the day along with guest rooms and a thriving saloon-restaurant.
The old jail space was now used as a storage room and the place had exposed wires, plumbing fixtures and a floor that needed to be recreated.
We got to listen to Anthony's patented rants about how awful it looked. "It's a crap hole," he declared as he picked his way through the rubble.
Melchiorri's unique vision took over. How about using it as a unique space with lots of history in a hotel that had already been declared a landmark?
Anthony envisioned events, parties, weddings, wine-tastings and more.
A town meeting was called and volunteers were enlisted to give a few days of their time and free labor to give Blanche. She now had the bodies she needed.
When it was all said and done, a new business idea was floated and accepted. A co-op would be set up with a monthly fee, and the theme would be preservation of the landmark Hotel Leger, entitling members to freebies on rooms, meals, etc.
It would save the only place in town people seemed to gather and enjoy themselves, and the hotelier who had lost ten years of her life and invested more than $800,000 would be able to rebuild her business.
We got to see the softer side of Anthony as he shed tears and reveled in the hero role for a town that truly was a family, albeit a sizable one.
While the episode was a bit on the soft and mushy side of the emotional tone scale, reminiscent in a few ways to the ABC show Extreme Makeover Home Edition, it proved fascinating to watch the exquisite business and creative mind of Anthony Melchiorri at work.
Travel Channel airs new episodes of Hotel Impossible, Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET Image: Travel Channel/Hotel Impossible
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