The Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel had its grand opening on October 15, 2008. Salvatore J. Panto, mayor of Easton, spoke first. “Today”, the Mayor said, “is a grand day for Easton as we celebrate the new birth of our community’s most storied landmark.” Representative Robert Freeman of the Pennsylvania House of Representative also spoke eloquently, remembering the history of the building and its importance to the City. The Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Hylton followed. He spoke about the importance of urban revitalization and the role the building could play to that purpose. His speech mirrored the theme of his famous book “Save Our Land, Save Our Towns” where he wrote:
From Easton to Erie, the trend is the same. Virtually every Pennsylvania city has lost populations since the 1950s, usually accompanied by deteriorated neighborhoods and debilitated buildings… Statewide, thanks in no small part to sprawling development patterns, Pennsylvania has lost more than four million acres of farmland since the 1950s, an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.
What we’ve done is spend billions of dollars for new infrastructure to do little more than take our existing populations and spread it around. We’ve ruined our wonderfully livable cities, and ravaged the countryside surrounding them, in order to create a terribly expensive and woefully inefficient way of life. We’ve tried to run away from urban problems rather than solve them. In the process, we made those problems worse.
The hotel, Hylton pointed out, was a giant step in the other direction. “Looking to the future,” Mayor Panto concluded, the Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel will serve as a model for responsible urban renewal throughout the state.”
Today, the verdict is clear—the Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel is a success in all the important ways that Easton Hotel Restoration hoped it would be. During its short existence, it has been the place of choice to stay for the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, Peyton Manning, Johnny Mathis and Ringo Starr’s band, along with ambassadors and other notables. Its occupancy today is among the top in the Lehigh Valley. Its popular Gold Room is constantly in use, hosting speakers like United State Senator Bob Casey and singers like Judy Collins, events like the Special Olympics Super Plunge, along with business meetings, weddings and celebrations. The hotel has also had an immeasurable impact on the City, serving as a catalyst for change and an inspiration for myriad other projects that followed in its wake.
Although the hotel has been a huge success in all these ways, it is not a profitable enterprise. The comparatively small number of units serve as a permanent impediment to achieving this end, preventing the hotel from ever generating enough traffic to earn more than its expenses. Its revenues are largely sufficient to cover the sizable costs of operating the beautifully restored building, to create dozens of jobs for the local population, and to pay taxes to the City and Northampton County. They do not pay for anything beyond annual operating expenses or provide any monetary payback to the owner. EHR’s mission, however, is not to earn a profit. Its mission has been and is revitalization of the building and city, to avoid the results so eloquently described by Thomas Hylton. In that it has succeeded.