You can still stand on one of the three half-circle balconies, lean against the curved guardrail and behold an earlier era.

Below, on the ballroom floor, the men of the Lincoln Commercial Club would have been wearing suits, smoking cigars, sipping drinks, slapping backs.

Above, the intricate and ornate 26-foot ceiling that meets the five towering windows overlooking the bustle of a younger P Street.


This photo from 1918 shows all three curved guardrails. Only the middle one remains.

But that was then, and then was a century ago.

The Commercial Club at 11th and P streets became the Chamber of Commerce, and later Gallup moved in, and then other tenants, and as the decades piled up, the third-floor ballroom would become partially walled off, stripped of some grandeur, modernized, cubicled and turned into a call center.

But not erased from history. Today, it’s a construction zone, a dream to coax it back to its original splendor, a set of plans that Dana Walsh unfolds and reads likes a map.

There, the kitchen. There, the bar. The spa and whirlpool. The peacock-feather wallpaper. The women’s bathroom with Victorian-era sitting room and fainting couch. The library and billiards room.

“It’s an amazingly beautiful building," said Walsh, an interior designer from California hired to help resuscitate the Lincoln Commercial Club. “I always tell people it’s not a remodel. It’s a restoration.”

The ballroom will serve as event space for weddings, parties and other galas. The project includes three formal hotel rooms and a suite on the fourth floor, which will be managed by the Kindler Hotel, under construction next door.

Walsh has a pair of goals: To create a period piece by turning back the clock to 1913, when the club opened. And to keep it as original as possible.

Lincoln Commercial Club restoration

Renovations are under way on the third floor, which includes the ballroom, and the fourth floor -- which will house four hotel rooms.

Some of that will be easy. The floor-to-ceiling windows remain, and the ceiling’s decorations are largely untouched. Some of the crown molding has been damaged and removed, but Walsh found molds to replicate it.

But she can’t find two of the three curved guardrails from the balcony.

She has no idea where they went, who took them, or when. It was likely during an earlier renovation, she said.

Gallup remodeled in the early 1990s, said Ed Zimmer, the city’s Historic Preservation Planner. But the railings likely disappeared before that, in the 1950s or 1960s, during a destructive rebuilding — when drop ceilings were installed and duct work for heating and air conditioning was pushed through molding and walls, he said.

They’re not gathering dust at Conner’s Architectural Antiques, and they’ve never passed through the store, said owner Sid Conner.

But he knows the guardrails. He saw all three of them in the ballroom about 35 years ago, though he’s a little fuzzy on the year.

“They disappeared after that,” he said. “They’ve been gone a long time.”

Lincoln Commercial Club restoration

The Commercial Club's interior designer is searching for the two missing curved guardrails, which at some point in the last 50 years were removed and replaced with wood panels.

Walsh could have the guardrails replicated, but she’d rather have the originals. They belong in the ballroom.

“The whole point of this is to try to restore it as close as possible to as it was,” she said.

She was restoring a Victorian home in Crete recently, and was trying to find one of its original 1888 leaded windows. Word got around, and a former owner contacted her: She had the window.

Walsh hopes the same happens with the guardrails. That their new owner hears about her search, fishes them out of a garage or attic, and returns them to the ballroom.

“I think it would be so cool that somebody knew the railings they had all these years are going back in their original home,” she said. “I’ve got to think it could be possible.”

Lincoln buildings that have made history

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.



Peter Salter is a reporter.

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