New life for a Metamora treasure - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

New life for a Metamora treasure

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METAMORA (WJRT) -

(02/11/14) - It was Michigan's oldest restaurant when it closed more than a year ago. Now, it might have a new lease on life.

Metamora's White Horse Inn could soon re-open, thanks to nearly $1 million in state grant money and local contributions.

Since before the Civil War, the White Horse Inn welcomed guests with a hot meal or a room. Originally built to accommodate railroad and stagecoach passengers, the Inn recently fell on hard times, closing in 2012 due to mounting repair costs.

"We used to go there quite often. They used to have a great fish fry," said former customer Carole Bellaver.

"Every couple of weeks, we would eat at the White Horse. They had specials and local music that was wonderful," said Goodrich native Evaughn Salminem.

After a foreclosure sale in 2013, the Inn was bought by restaurateur Victor Dzenowagis. A renovation and restoration project will be the next chapter in the building's 164-year history.

Local business owners near The White Horse Inn, like Donna and Phil Andreae, who own The High Street Eatery just down the block, are happy to see someone step up and turn the structure around.

"We absolutely love the fact that it is going to continue now," Donna said. "We always need to maintain our historical buildings in our small towns that thrive on our history and reputation."

 "I've been out here for over 40 years, so we're very familiar with it. We were sad to see it go and we're very excited about seeing it coming back," Phil said.

A block grant of $570,000 from the Michigan Strategic Fund was announced last week by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The MEDC helps distribute grant money to foster economic growth in smaller communities. The Metamora Downtown Development Authority is also contributing $300,000 for demolition and restoration costs. Nearly $2 million of private funds are also expected to go into the project, breathing new life, not just to a historic building, but to the town itself.

John Griswold, owner of The Salt Box across the street from the White Horse Inn, knows its legacy.

"If you tell people, if they ask you where you live, and you say, 'Metamora,' they have no clue where Metamora is until you mention "The White Horse," and they say, 'Oh, that's Metamora,'" he said.

The White Horse hopes to hold a grand opening late this summer or early fall. Nearly 40 employees are expected to help run the restaurant and banquet center.

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