By Barbara Grijalva - email
Tombstone, AZ (KOLD) - Something new is coming to historic Tombstone.
Well, really it's something old, getting a new life.
The school board voted Wednesday night to sell the old Tombstone High School to a developer.
Tombstone is known as "The town to tough to die."
Apparently, we can say the same thing about its old high school.
It is going to experience a rebirth as part of a grand hotel.
Developer William Smith of J&W Transformations, LCC, wears cowboy boots and the hat, and a silver belt buckle.
You would expect a guy like that to know the importance of a town like Tombstone.
I asked Smith, "You're a cowboy at heart, aren't you?"
"I guess I am. Just an old romantic cowboy," he replied.
But Smith also is a developer with a vision of success.
"We want to then turn this into a destination hotel of the 1880 period with the magnificent entryways and the walnut on the rooms and so on," he says.
Smith's says he's buying Tombstone's old high school and elementary for $2.9 million.
Tombstone voters wanted a way to save the historic high school building, built in 1922, 12 years after Arizona became a state.
Smith's idea scores high marks.
Tombstone Unified School District Superintendent Karl Uterhardt says, "The community loves the building. You have great grandparents that say, 'Oh yeah, I graduated from here.' So, it's really important to the community."
So the front of the building will remain the same, but the inside will be transformed.
Smith's walks us through one of the classrooms.
"We may have to move this wall. We'll have to cut in new doors," he says.
Even the gymnasium will play a part.
"Barbara, this area here, we hope to turn it into a convention center, or musical production areas," Smith says.
Smith says he wants to do something for Tombstone, such as bringing in more tourism and jobs.
And he wants to do something for visitors who appreciate the rich history.
"We want to show the people the actual wild west. Everybody in our hotel will be dressed in period costumes. We hope to even have a stagecoach pick them up, take them to town," Smith says.
Uterhardt says, "If you go anywhere in the world, this is the most famous rural town in America. Tombstone. Everybody knows it. I mean it's the OK Corral gunfight. That's what you hear. So, they want to come see that, and this will be a great attraction for everybody."
It's a grand plan. The hope is people from all over the world will be staying here by the end of 2011.
Rural Arizona has another historic school-turned-hotel.
Noftsger Hill Elementary School in Globe was built in 1907.
Visitors to Noftsger Hill stay in the actual classrooms that have been left much the way they were 100 years ago, complete with blackboards.
The rooms are huge and decorated with antiques.
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