Settles nearer to completion

It was like a a candle being placed atop a cake — although, in this case, the candle weighed more than four tons and the cake was 15 stories tall.For more than three years, workers have been busy renovating the Settles Hotel, but most of that work has been hidden from public view. Monday, however, came the most visible signal yet that the historic hotel will return to the land of the living after being shuttered for the better part of three decades.Using a giant crane, a 9,000-pound sign with “Hotel Settles” emblazoned in huge red letters was hoisted to the top of the hotel, letting everyone within eyesight know the hotel will soon emerge from its long hibernation.The event was of interest to even the most neutral passer-by, but to long-time renovation advocates, it was almost awe-inspiring.“This is history,” said Bobby McDonald, one of several residents who fought for years to save the hotel from demolition.“It was exciting to see that sign go back on top of the building and to know the hotel is coming back to life,” said Debbie Wegman, director of the Big Spring Convention and Visitors' Bureau. “I loved it.”The Settles, built in 1930, is perhaps Big Spring's most visible landmark and for decades served as a hub of activity for the community. By the 1970s, however, the hotel had deteriorated badly and was boarded up early the following decade.A string of subsequent owners promised to bring the hotel back to its former glory, but it was not until the brother team of Brint and Kris Ryan purchased the building that promises turned into action.The Ryans' Settles Hotel Development Co. will spend about $25 million refurbishing the hotel before it finally reopens later this year. Plans call for its use, not only as a stop for weary travelers, but for conventions, business meetings and social gatherings.“It's going to be an exciting opportunity to draw groups here for meetings and conventions,” Wegman said. “Having all that in such an historic building just makes it even better.”