WORK to restore the Star and Garter has begun after new owner David Kennedy picked up the keys on Friday.
The landmark hotel dating back to 1759 was reduced to a burned out shell by fire in October 2010 and has lain derelict since then with locals fearing it would be left to rot.
But David Kennedy who owns Real Estate Signs in Linlithgow Bridge secured the sale of No.1 the High Street last week for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
He said: “I’ve been after the Star for about a year and it was confirmed at 4pm on Friday that I got it.
‘‘I hadn’t slept on Thursday night so I was excited and relieved. No one wanted it to fall down.
‘‘To turn it into flats would be the most economical thing to do but that wasn’t an option as I wanted to restore it as a hotel for the town.”
David, of Lovells’ Glen, has ambitious plans for the famous building which include a cafe bar to the rear for commuters coming on and off trains, a newly designed bar and restaurant, a function suite on the first floor with views of the High Street, and five quality bedroom suites on the second. A beautiful stained glass window that survives in the stairwell will also be made visible to those in the cafe bar.
Although much of the ground floor is still intact, extensive repairs need to be made to the internal walls on the first floor which needs reinforcing and the top floor needs to be recreated, completed with a new roof.
Before the roof goes on the internal structure must be secure so David and his team, including local architect Thom Pollock, will be working from the bottom up.
David added: “This building is a piece of history. It will take a fair bit of work but I hope to open next year and it would be nice for it to be in June for the Marches.
“I want it all done quickly and make it watertight before the bad weather comes in.
‘‘Everyone has been very supportive - this is in everybody’s interest, including the council’s, to get this moving.”
Outside the building at the back, David wants to reinstate the beer garden and remove the metal stairs, replacing it with a balcony, so the Deacons can resurrect their tradition of speeches on Deacon’s Nights.
At the front, David wants the former conservatory area to be a garden room and also open up the pavement area for the public.
In the more distant future, David added he would like to reinstate Bowler’s Nightclub in this area.
As well as redesigning the bar area, David also wants to create a quieter bar in the ‘howf’ room towards the rear.
Although David will own the building, he will not be running it, adding: “Sign making is my trade and I’ve never done anything in the hotel trade before.
“Maybe I am mad but I think it’s worth it. This is about the town’s legacy.”
The Star and Garter Trust which was set up last April with local groups aiming to buy the iconic building for community ownership has now been disbanded.
David Tait of the SGT said: “We are absolutely delighted that David will be restoring the Star and Garter and we wish him all the best.
The Trust is now looking into the possibility of developing a local building preservation trust.”
For those who donated to the SGT, contact David Tait on 07767713024 or email email@example.com
A delighted Provost Tom Kerr added: “I hope that the local authority will co-operate in the planning and building control process to facilitate the return of this important building to the town. It’s encouraging that it’s someone local that has aken on the responsibility for it.”