With its claim to fame as the first incorporated city in Kansas, Leavenworth is a hidden treasure of historical sites, said Ilan Salzberg, but its significance does not end within its past, as the vibrant town has still so much to offer.
“Leavenworth is a really cool town that I think commonly gets overlooked. People only think of Leavenworth as having military and prisons, but there’s so much more than that,” said Salzberg, a Denver-based developer who leads Exact Partners LLC — the firm behind iconic development projects on Kansas City’s Main Street and Troost Avenue.
Recognizing Leavenworth’s charm, Salzberg and the Exact team have taken on numerous projects in the town — recently including the Leavenworth Local Hotel, which was previously Immaculata High School from 1923 until the school’s closing in 2017.
“The city knows that we are good at doing historic renovations; we’ve done the Ben Day School, Broadway school and Carnegie Arts Center that was once the library,” Salzberg noted. “Someone from the community came to us with this opportunity, and I just thought it would be a really unique hotel stay.”
The Leavenworth Local Hotel, Trademark Collection by Wyndman, opened in June 2021. The $9 million redevelopment project features 46 rooms, a bar, spa, gym, pickleball courts and event space.
Because the building is on Kansas’ historical register, guests will find that the flooring of the gymnasium and other structural details remain as they were when the school was active, noted Taylor Herken, who serves as the event coordinator at the Leavenworth Local Hotel.
“We have our ‘classroom suites’ that still have [Immaculata’s] original chalkboards,” Herken said. “Kids love coming down to the front desk for chalk, and it makes moms and dads happy too. Then, it’s cool as staff to come check out what handwriting or scribbles are still up on check out day.”
To commemorate historical aspects of the building or town of Leavenworth, the Leavenworth Local Hotel is decorated with plaques known as “Local Moments.”
The Immaculata Class of 1970 “went back to school” for the evening of their “50th + 2” reunion in the hotel’s event space.
“The hotel provided the rare opportunity to ‘come home’ and celebrate in our former school,” said Pat Skaham Dimond of the Class of 1970. “The Monsignor Kelly Conference Room, our former auditorium, was the perfect place to share good food and good memories with good friends. If you’re looking for a fun and unique location to host your next event, look no further.”
The hotel also hosts monthly comedy nights, movie nights and a local market for small businesses to share their goods with their entire community.
Click here to check out upcoming events at the Leavenworth Local Hotel.
Along with recognizing the building’s past history, Salzberg and the staff focus on how to make a positive impact in the present-day hotel by embracing queer community.
“I’m now very present in my gender fluid presentations — sometimes I present as a cisgender-white male, but other times I bring a much more feminine presentation, this was something I was once very ashamed of. I hope my visibility now gives others the courage to bring their whole selves, whoever that might be, to the world, and overcome any shame they might be grappling with,” Salzberg said, referencing his/her gender-fluid identity and personal path.
“We’ve had an incredible trans comedian,” Salzberg continued. “I’ve got this whole vision of doing a basic training series where drag queens come in, and it’s a whole weekend getaway. I think it would be a blast. … But for now, we’re here. We’re cool. We’re different. We’re definitely the queerest hotel in the area.”
Dawn Lynne — Salzberg’s femme second half — has performed on the Leavenworth Local Hotel stage herself. By being open with his/her identity, Salzberg hopes to uplift others in the queer community.
“I had a really magical moment with someone from the local arts community,” Salzberg recalled. “She told me that her son went to [Immaculata High School] and struggled with feeling alone at high school because of his sexuality. She said that he came out later and to know that the new owner of what once was the high school is supportive of him — it is pretty special.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.