Editorial: Great job by city in closing Lincoln Hotel

Editorial: Great job by city in closing Lincoln Hotel

By Frank Schier

By Frank Schier

Editor & Publisher

Congratulations to the City of Rockford!

By condemning the Lincoln Hotel at 206-212 N. Church St., city officials have removed a major blight on the west side of the River District, in an efficient and humane manner.

Surrounding business people are ecstatic at the closing because the management and residents of the hotel adversely affected conducting business and the image of their businesses.

The city also did the residents of the hotel a great service by removing them from filthy, unhealthy and unsafe conditions.

The building is infested with roaches and fleas. Sources related that refuse was knee deep in one room; and when any of the refuse was moved, clouds of fleas arose with so many roaches that the floor seemed to be moving. Social workers told us of walking down the hallway and having roaches fall into their hair.

Weeks’ worth of full garbage bags were piled in a room in the old Cart restaurant downstairs, complete with masses of roaches. Time and time again, the dumpster in the alley has overflowed with garbage, old furniture and mattresses.

Bonnie Henry, city Building Department director, said, “The roach infestation was massive. They were just everywhere.”

Of the 39 rooms, 16 bathroom doors were nailed or screwed shut. The remaining bathrooms had sinks, toilets or showers that were in disrepair. Of the three common bathrooms, only one had a shower with hot water, but the light didn’t work.

On Dec. 13, 2001, the River District Association held a Safety Committee meeting at Memorial Hall, with the Lincoln on the agenda. Leonardo Guzzardo, owner of the Lincoln, and his former manager, Gary “Bull” Long, attended. Long admitted that drug sales occurred in the hotel.

Guzzardo claims that area car burglaries, which was only one item on the agenda, were not committed by any of his residents. In fact, Guzzardo says he provided information which led to the arrest of the car burglar.

“I was the victim of crime here like everybody else,” said Guzzardo. “I have 16 doors that were broken into. I have all the reports. I’d call, and there was no follow-up by the detectives.”

On Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002, a resident of the Lincoln was arrested concerning the burglary of the Emporium Barber Shop at 230 N. Church St.

Crime is nothing new at the Lincoln Hotel. Assaults, rapes, and burglary occurred there. From August 1999 to August 2000, police were called to the Lincoln 272 times. From August 2000 to August 2001, 130 police calls were made to the address. Recent statistics will be in our next issue.

Leonardo, and his brother John Guzzardo, are listed as the owners of the property on the Winnebago County tax records. They bought the property in 1986.

The brothers also owned other hotels of infamy in Rockford—The Lawrence Hotel on 7th Street, which burned down; the Chandler Hotel on South Main Street, which was torn down; and the Grand Hotel on Broadway, which was bought by Zion Development and financed by the City of Rockford after prolonged neighborhood protests.

Leonardo said, “All the problems with me started here last August when people from the outside started coming here and tripping the fire alarms. I probably had 10 calls for fire reports, and no arrests were made, even though there were eyewitnesses.”

In the August 15-21, 2001 issue of this paper, we reported that since the previous August, 26 calls were made for false alarms, closet and mattress fires and medical emergencies.

The hotel’s fire escape in the alley, which is broken, was used by residents as a back door to circumvent the front desk, which was unmanned at night. It is stuck in the lowered position, blocking alley traffic, and is pulling out of the wall to which it is attached.

Director Henry informed us there was also a small fire in the hotel the week before the condemnation.

She said the process of heavy inspection began last July. Fire, police, health and building inspectors did a complete inspection at that time. The inspections were the result of requests by Aldermen Dick Goral (D-7) and Doug Mark (R-3).

Violations were extensive, and a code hearing will occur at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20 in City Council Chambers.

Henry said the inspection that resulted in last week’s condemnation was to determine how much had been done for the upcoming hearing. Conditions at the hotel were obviously getting worse, she said, adding, “Because it got worse, we went through the process of getting an administrative search warrant, signed by a district judge.”

Of particular concern are structural problems with exterior walls, the roof, electrical, plumbing and furnace violations.

Considering all these violations, the crime, the danger of the living conditions and the taxpayers’ money that has gone to police and fire calls, city inspections and administration, action had to be taken.

Everyone should praise Mayor Doug Scott and all his departments. Particular praise should go to Director Henry, Community Affairs Officer Michael Booker, and Alderman Doug Mark.

The Human Services Department should also be praised for their placement of the residents in more suitable living conditions.

Although the process is far from over—the Guzzardos will have approximately six months to deal with the order for demolition—city officials were very professional and thorough.

Guzzardo has said he intends to sue the city and Rockford Township for condemning his building. That should not go very far.

Considering the “Crown Jewel of Rockford,” the Coronado Theatre, an $18.5 million taxpayer investment, is only one block away, not to mention the rest of the flowering River District, the infestation of the Lincoln Hotel must end. The city has begun in a fine manner, and we can’t wait for the final extermination of the hotel.

Because some of his residents are mentally ill, Guzzardo said, “I’ve operated here for 27 years in this city; and if I wished to fill this place up again, it would look the same in three weeks. I’d like to sell it. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

Please, don’t buy and bail him out as we did with the Grand Hotel. He is also now involved in a bankruptcy.

Henry said it the best, “It’s not the people there; it’s the maintenance of the building. The owner of the property is responsible for the maintenance of the building.”

“Great job!” to all involved in the condemnation. May the good work continue.

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