New ownership at the Rogers Hotel has brought about major changes, not the least of which is the development and use of all available space.

Among the changes is the opening of the Library Lounge, a jazz piano bar with a light lounge atmosphere. In the space known as “Fat Moe’s” under the prior ownership, bookshelves now line two of the walls and a display of antique musical instruments is planned for a third.

Leather sofas and chairs are being brought in along with a baby grand piano. There will be music - either piped in or played by local musicians - but it will always be at a low enough level where people can easily talk with each other, hotel general manager Brandi Harper said.

“We want this to be a place where you can have casual meetings or get together to relax after a day at work,” she said, discussing the soft, soothing ambience she is creating.

Pieces of the original tin ceiling have been inset into the wall under the bookshelf, mimicking a similar design above the bar area. Another wall has been bricked with a pattern reminiscent of a nearby building’s exterior. The stairs leading to the College Street entrance have been brightened with new tile and paint and a room off to one side is planned for use as a smaller meeting space capable of seating up to 25.

“Detail was something that was very important to me,” Harper said of the work in progress. “We had to make a difference between what it is now - and what it was before. It’s a totally new face and a totally new look.”

A major change is that the Library Lounge is now non-smoking - as is the rest of the Rogers Hotel and its facilities under the new management.

The clean and polished look begins with the Library Lounge’s columned entrance from the hotel. A new feature, the columns were designed to replicate the front of Nicholas P. Sims Library. The nearby restrooms also have been reworked, with new fixtures and lighting.

Inside the lounge, the little touches include purse hooks added under the bar edge so bags don’t have to sit on the floor or on the bar - and a bricked ledge runs the circumference of the room, allowing people who are standing and talking a place to set their refreshments.

Although there is still some work to be done, the lounge is open, with seating for about 100 people. Both the lounge and or the smaller room can be rented, with the hotel working with any group on catering and other amenities. As an example, Harper notes the Waxahachie High School class of 1967 has rented the entire space for its upcoming reunion activities.

In keeping with a desire to play up the historical aspects of the hotel, Harper is seeking donations or loans from the community of several items, including old books to line the shelves of the Library Lounge.

She also points to a wall in the entry where she would like to display old photos and other memorabilia that people either donate or loan to the hotel.

“Photos, antiques, anything historical, we would like to be able to name rooms and suites after people,” she said. “We want people to see the history, touch it, feel it and know it.”

During a recent visit and tour, Harper also touched on other aspects of the Rogers Hotel, saying grand reopening festivities are planned the latter part of this week in coordination with homecoming weekend.

In its return to the glory of its early years, the Rogers Hotel will very soon offer a complete package of amenities: from its rooms to the Library Lounge and from its casual restaurant, Tavern on the Square, to its upscale dining room, Remington Grill. The complex also will feature several shops - including Any Bloomin’ Thang - offering everything from jewelry to clothing to floral arrangements.

“I think it will become second nature for people to come here,” Harper said.

As with the local entertainment in Library Lounge, she also hopes to stage local artisans’ displays in the hotel lobby in addition to offering their works for sale through the shops.

“I don’t think we need to go to Salado or Fredericksburg. Why send our stuff there when we can do it here?” Harper said, saying any artisans who are interested can contact her at the hotel for more information.

“People are going to expect quality and it’s the unexpected details we want to supply,” Harper said. “We’ve opened everything up to a new level and we’re looking to raise the bar.”

She expects the hotel to become a destination and service point for local as well as out of town guests for such activities as weddings, reunions and meetings. The hotel will be a family-inviting establishment and Harper said a complete package of services will be offered.

“From our head chef to our florals, we have the capability of keeping everything in house,” she said.

As she looks to the future, Harper said there are plans to rework the upstairs banquet rooms and notes office space is available for rent in the facility. There are also plans to put in a spa - and incorporate the hotel’s historic mineral spa area back into use.

There have been many 15-hour days since the new owners, Adlai Pennington and Gerald Beck, purchased the hotel, but Harper said she’s enjoying the challenge of bringing life back into one of the county’s historic cornerstones.

“Everybody’s been so friendly and helpful,” she said. “And if we put the right amount of time into this now, we will be successful.”

And looking further into the future, Harper said she envisions re-opening the roof where, once upon a time, Ellis County residents danced underneath the stars.

“We do have plans to return the pergola to the roof,” she said. “I just have to make sure we’re successful with what we’re doing now so we can get to that point.”

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