New owner shares plans to restore historic Basque hotel
The Town Square Mall has been sold by Jack Streeter to Mirazim Shakoori, who hopes to restore it to its historic roots.
Shakoori is a native of Azerbaijan who came to the United States 33 years ago, became a U.S. citizen, and was a successful businessman owning several companies involved in the petroleum industry before retiring two years ago.
Fifteen months ago he moved to Mountain Home where he had owned property, and fell in love with the community and the people here. And even more importantly, he fell in love with the Basque people and culture of the area. "I've read everything I can on them, " he said, "I love that culture and I love the people."
When he saw the building Streeter had owned for 21 years he developed a growing desire to see it restored to its original condition.
The building is one of the oldest in Mountain Home and was originally known as the Bengeochea Hotel, built in 1910 by wealthy Basque sheepman Jose "Joe" Bengoechea to provide living quarters and a cultural gathering spot for the Basque sheepherders coming to the Mountain Home area in the early years of the 20th century. It was considered to be one of the more elegant hotels in the entire region.
"I want to work with them (the local Basques) to determine how we're going to save this building," Shakoori said.
"I'll hold the title to it, but this building belongs to the Basque people."
Ideally, Shakoori would like to restore the building back into a hotel and Basque restaurant. But, he admitted, despite his success as an entrepreneur, "I don't have the experience" for those jobs. "If I can find someone who does, that's what we'll do."
In the meantime, he said, the building, currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be remodeled to provide space for professional offices.
But he'll do everything he can to restore its historic look. The Streeter signage will come down, and the building restored to look as much like the original Bengeochea hotel as possible.
Streeter had had the building for sale for several years. Besides his real estate business, the building also housed his wife Marge's antique store, their residence quarters, and half a dozen rooms on the upper floors were rented out to boarders.
Shakoori said those boarders would be given time to find other housing. "It will be several months before we're in a position to start remodeling," he said.
Meanwhile, by the end of July, Streeter will relocate his real estate business and his wife's antique store to new quarters at the old DeMeyer house on American Legion Boulevard, across from Camas Carpets.