Sitting at the end of Railroad Street, the Navidad Hotel has been a prominent part of Port Lavaca’s culture for more than 100 years. Although recent years have seen its decline, one couple is looking to restore it to its previous state.
Living nearly an hour and a half away in Rosenberg, Jeff and Lesa Junek purchased the Navidad Hotel with the intent to rebuild the building and a vision of returning it to its original state. Jeff, who works in IT, originally founded the property while scrolling through the popular real-estate app Zillow.
“Jeff was entertaining himself by looking at houses on Zillow, and our real estate agent contacted us, and he let us know the hotel was available,” Lesa said. “We really liked the location, and we had a vision.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic and an injury to the family delayed the couple’s purchase of the property, they eventually were able to buy the Navidad hotel earlier this year. Previously renovated for low-income rentals for visiting workers, the Juneks’ plan was to transform the hotel into a set of studio apartments.
Drywall and wallpaper are to be removed to expose the original wooden and brick walls of the hotel and a new A/C system will be installed to replace the numerous window-mounted units. Most of the rooms will see a major refurbishment, as old appliances and paint are torn away. The Juneks have even given the thought to restore the original balcony that once overlooked the entrance.
The work will be extensive, and while the Juneks have made progress, they don’t expect it to be finished anytime soon. With the assistance of their son, whom they plan to have manage the property once complete, Jeff and Lesa have removed mounds of trash but still have thorough water damage to repair in addition to broken windows, damaged portions to the roof and pest infestations. Hints of the hotel’s previous splendor still remain in the glass skylight and interior courtyard space.
“So many times, I’m in there and sweating and literally using a shovel to put things into the trash bag, I ask myself, ‘What were these people thinking?’ It’s kind of been like a crossover between animal planet and hoarders. We had come up a few weeks ago and found a ginormous raccoon that filled up the whole shower bottom sleeping, so I let him be,” Lesa said. “But my vision is to have it restored. When our contractor came down here, we found there was a brick wall inside. There are still some of the real wooden floors in there. There are even rooms in here where you have a nice full brick wall that’s been covered up by plywood and contact paper.”
Even though there’s still a lot of work to be done, the Juneks are hopeful that they can transform the Navidad Hotel into something that will bring new life and energy to Port Lavaca’s Main Street area.