One of my favorite things about working as a journalist here is getting to learn the history of Hazard and Perry County. During our series on the communities of Perry County I had the privilege to talk to some of the natives that have helped to build this area. Through this I have become somewhat of an amateur historian of Hazard and Perry County.
One thing that I learned since working here I did not find until a few weeks ago. While talking to Mayor Nan Gorman she told me about the La Citadelle hotel and restaurant. She described it as an epicenter of commerce, culture, and fine dining in Hazard that stood for a long time.
After talking to her I wrongfully assumed that the building must have been torn down. While taking a drive to areas of Hazard I had not yet explored, I came across the building just recently.
The grand white building still looks just as good as it always must have, and despite being closed for many years, looked as though it was still kept up. To see the building behind its large gates overlooking Hazard you can almost see major railroad or coal deals being done in a lounge about a round of celebratory cigars.
After finding the once great hotel, I began asking people about it and found that it had been a major part of many people’s lives in Hazard. Nearly everyone you talk to either stayed there, ate there, or worked there at some point.
Of the people I have talked to, everyone said it was simply a great hotel with an incredible restaurant.
When I first moved to Hazard my uncle continued to tell me that he had come here on business in the 1980s and stayed at an incredible resort overlooking the city. After no luck of figuring out what he meant, I assumed he must have gotten confused and actually stayed in some other town in Eastern Kentucky.
But shortly after finding the La Citadelle, my mom put together that this must have been the place my uncle stayed. Upon telling him I had found the hotel he had been telling me about for the last year, he was excited and remembered staying there fondly but was then sad to hear it had closed.
Sadly, like most things, large chains, a changing economy, or new technologies probably brought the end of the La Citadelle. While these restaurants and hotels have brought some jobs and some money to the area, they can never replace the amount of money leaving the area that is spent locally at these chains. Businesses like the La Citadelle offer jobs, management positions, contracting work for repairs and up keep, and every dime stayed local.
The building is still in great shape and has the one of the greatest views in all of Eastern Kentucky. The building also contuinues to house a local business in Spalding Engineers.
Opening a business like this is an adventure tourism, small town experience, with luxury rooms and restaurant, all locally run still seems like an amazing business model.