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The Palmer Building, 22 East Church Street. «Back to View Articles | Back to All Articles
2/8/2008 - David Mower


You have driven by it a million times.  Maybe even wondered who owned the building and what it was used for.  It certainly is a Kilmarnock landmark, and many have always wanted to go in and look around.  Now is your chance.  Open house 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Sunday, 10 February, hosted by Pam Deihl and her family.

Pam Deihl was given the opportunity to buy the building by the "Peck" Humphreys family in January, and she leapt at the opportunity.  Peck was the owner of the building's last active occupant - American Products Corporation.  The Eubank/Cox/Richard Lee Hotel/Standard Products Corporation/Palmer Building had been standing vacant and neglected for many years and was in need of significant repair just to open the front door.  In fact, the door itself need a little  TCL which has been done and once again present a striking entry way to Palmer Building visitors.

The newly named “Palmer Building”, (named after Pam’s grandfather, John Armistead Palmer, who was the founder of the annual Holly Ball of the Northern Neck that started in 1895 as a private Yuletide party), was originally a wood frame building built as the Eubank Hotel and operated together with the Eubank General store.  In 1909, a fire started in the detached kitchen of the Eubank Hotel.  After initially trying to put the fire out, the fire department volunteers tied ropes around the structure and tried to drag the building away from the Hotel proper, but to no avail.  Consequently, Kilmarnock suffered the first of its three devastating fires (1909, 1915, & 1952) that essentially destroyed the business district.

Welcome to the Palmer Building



In 1910, the hotel was rebuilt, but this time with brick.  This is the structure that still stands in somewhat modified form today. This 1910 version was the Cox Hotel.  Later the hotel was sold and renamed the Richard Lee Hotel.  As you tour the newly renovated Palmer Building, you can see Richard Lee Hotel room rate cards and room keys on display dated from 1962. 

Sometime in 1962 the hotel was sold to American Products Corporation, which set up offices in the north wing on the building’s second floor.  (Note the “Reserved For American Products Corporation” parking sign still posted on the rear of the building.)

Pam gave me a tour of the unfinished renovation.  Most of the work is being done on the main and second floors with the effort on the third floor mostly restricted to clean up for now.  In some ways the third floor was the most interesting as the rooms still were covered with wall paper.  Every room was a distinctive pattern.  In fact, it looked like someone had a wallpaper book and told the sales clerk, "I'll take one of each." 

Third Floor Hall & Rooms

9 Rooms, 9 Patterns

Third Floor Top of Stairs

Pam has had a crew seemingly working around the clock cleaning up the accumulation of debris cause by years of neglect, replacing walls, removing worn out carpet, shining hard wood floors, painting the interior, and much, much more.  It’s been no small task.  The building is about 8,000 square feet and about 30 total rooms on three floors and a cupola.  The second and third floors each had 9 bedrooms with shared bathrooms.  The main floor consisted of a lobby, public parlor, kitchen, dinning room, a private (“smooching”) parlor, and the owner’s suite.

3rd Floor Stairs to Cupola

The Cupola & Fruit Trees

The question on everyone's mind is, "what does the cupola look like?"  A narrow third floor stair case winds up to the "fourth floor" cupola.  As you go up the passage, it gets noticeably warmer as the sun heats up the tiny space at the top of the stair.  It's obvious why the building’s signature cupola was used during the winter month in the hotel years as a conservatory for house plants and fruit trees.  The sun's warmth even on cold winter days must have kept the temperature quite balmy.  Oranges and lemons (said to be as big as grapefruit) were picked from the fruit trees and used to make pies for the hotel guests.  It is said, that it was hard work carrying water up the narrow winding stairway to the cupola in the winter to keep the plants moist.

Cupola View - North

Cupola View - South

Cupola View - East

Pam stated she doesn’t have any specific plans for use of the Palmer Building at this time.  She may rent it out, sell it, or entertain ideas from the people who visit the building as to potential uses.   She is very fond of the old building and very honored that the previous owner wished her to buy it.  Now with it in her trust, tended with TLC, and confident that a good use for it will eventually arise, she is opening it up for the community to come and tour.  Who knows, maybe the next Holly Ball will gather at the Palmer Building for hor’douvres before moving on to the crowning site.

 Thank you, Pam!

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