a view of the tennis court

In The Spotlight

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How a historic Roman Catholic private school became ‘the queerest hotel in Kansas’

By: Channa Steinmetz

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.”

For full article please visit: https://www.startlandnews.com/2022/07/leavenworth-local-hotel/

Gender-Fluid Hotelier Hosts Inclusive Comedy Night at Leavenworth Local Hotel

Developer Ilan Salzberg spent the last five years of daylight hours spearheading a number of historic projects along Kansas City’s Troost Avenue and Main Street presenting much as expected by the word “developer— tall, bald, beardy, suited, and most predictably, male. As night hit, Salzberg would throw on heels and hair and head out on the town to work the Kansas City poetry circuit as “Dawn,” Salzberg’s femme second half. Somewhere in the mix, Dawn began to step into the light of day more and more.

“I used to do a quick change act—ripping off my wig and dress and popping into a suit every time I was going to meet a lender or potential partner. I was so worried about whether people would trust Dawn the way they trusted Ilan. Once, while very much closeted in male mode, a banker complimented my painted nails assuming that it was my daughter’s work. That same banker saw me in femme dress a year later. I mentioned the nails story—he was beyond accepting of Dawn.” Salzberg says bringing his and her whole self to work has allowed more authentic and grounded conversations and possibilities. “I’ve realized that the person I most need acceptance from was myself.”

Salzberg’s journey to incorporate Dawn into work life has changed the way he/she thinks about access and success. “I have privilege as a visually conforming and conventionally successful person. This has made it easier to take the risks I do, presenting as both masculine and feminine in work and social spheres,” says Salzberg, “I have a responsibility to give privilege to those who haven’t had as smooth of a go.” Salzberg’s journey has given her insight into the importance of queer and trans visibility and inspired an ongoing effort to showcase non-traditional voices and topics in a non-traditional location. The Leavenworth Local Hotel, the developer’s boutique historic hotel in the center of downtown Leavenworth, features an “all-grown-up” midcentury modern school auditorium with hip lighting and flexible seating. The juxtaposition of putting on sex and gender positive events in a location where many queer former students still hold residual dread isn’t lost on Salzberg. The mother of a former student at the school approached the developer at an event and expressed her joy at seeing confident non-traditional gender expression in a place where her child had experienced so much shame in the past. “It made me realize that just being visible can be impactful,” says Salzberg, “But I wanted to do more.”

“More” is certainly a way to describe this month’s “Spend The Night” event at the local. Kansas City-based trans comedian Stacy Cay and Only Fans provocateur Megan Graves will be hosting a sex-positive, slumber-party-themed comedy night, and guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion (think whatever you look best in while holding a glass of wine next to a fire on an evening in). For the May 20th event, Cay and Graves have invited Lea’h Sampson, who is making the stop amidst her Black History Year World tour with Yedoye Travis and Niles Abston and who was recently selected as one of the top five omedians to see at Austin’s Moontower Festival by ComedyWham. Do512 recently described her show as “full of energy, spunk, and comforting sass.” Salzberg will also take the stage to share a bit of comedy. “If it bombs, I have no fear that our line-up will make up for a swing-and-miss. But I’m eager to try.”

“Spend The Night” is a free event at the Leavenworth Local Hotel located at 600 Shawnee Street in Leavenworth, Kansas. Doors open at 7PM on Friday, May 20, 2022. Cocktails, wine, and beer will be available at the hotel bar!

"Spend the Night” at the Leavenworth Local, a One Year Anniversary Celebration to Remember!

To honor the Leavenworth Local Hotel’s one year anniversary, The Leavenworth Local’s third Friday Comedy Night is hosting “Spend the Night”, a show of non-traditional voices riffing on non-traditional topics. You will not want to miss this unique and fun night of sex positivity and affirmation.

Leavenworth Local Hotel owner and regional historic property developer, Ilan Salzberg, will be telling a bit of his/her story on stage as well. Ilan led a closeted and bifurcated life for years. He would generally present to the world as a masculine beardy bald man, a husband, father and successful real estate
developer. When opportunity arose, and often on work trips to the KC regions, he would get done up present to the world as she for a while. In short order, Dawn Lynne took Kansas City by storm as a tall, art loving girl about town. Over time, Dawn’s world and Ilan’s work world collided and the time came
to bring his/her whole self to work.

Over the past 5 years, Ilan AKA Dawn, a gender fluid out of town developer has become a fixture in the midtown Kansas City Real Estate Community and now Leavenworth Kansas. Exact Partners, a company he started with Caleb Buland, local Kansas City architect has spearheaded several signature historic apartment and commercial projects along Troost Blvd and Main Street in Midtown KC as well as four historic school renovations in Leavenworth Kansas. With several new projects moving through the construction pipeline, Exact and Ilan are far from finished. “I have had a lot of privilege as a both very outwardly conforming and very conventionally successful person. This has made it easier, though not quite easy, to take the risks I have presenting both masculine and feminine in work and social spheres,” said Ilan, “I think I have a responsibility to pass along the privileges I’ve had to others who have not had as smooth of a go. At the same time, while my gender presentation is unique, I do hope the contributions I’ve made to the communities I work in proves more interesting and a more lasting than the reality of my somewhat above average makeup skills.”

A year ago, Exact opened the doors of the Leavenworth Local, a boutique hotel in
Leavenworth in a lovingly converted Catholic School. “Converting the closed down Immaculata High School to a place where anyone and everyone can come out to experience the really cool Leavenworth /Weston area and be a bit of whoever it is they are and whoever it is they want to be is a legacy I’m very proud to be a part of,” shared Ilan.

The hotel struggled to gain traction amidst ongoing COVID travel restrictions at the nearby military base and being the new spot in a post pandemic world focused on safety and predictability. Fortunately, after a very hard winter, guests seem to be arriving in droves as word seems to be getting out of the Local’s spacious well priced suites, the Local’s amazing staff, the delightful Local hotel bar and the frequent spectacular programming the Local hosts. 

Third Fridays are Free Live Comedy night at the Local. This month, the Local will host “Spend the Night” a sex positive comedy show full of non-traditional voices and non-traditional topics at 8 PM. Friday May 20th. Details online. Cocktails, wine and beer at the bar outside the theater.

"Spend the Night” is the brainchild of by Kansas City Comediennes Stacy Cay, a magnificent transgender performer, and Megan Graves, a bold Only Fans provocateur. Women in comedy are a rare breed. Hot girl comedy performed in lingerie is all the rarer still. Stacy and Megan lean in. For May 20th, they have brought in headliner Lea’h Sampson, a rising star in Austin Texas, speaking her hilarious truth as a gorgeous woman of color. The magnificent Mid-Century Modern Auditorium will come to life for this slumber party themed show complete with a fuzzy bed, lingerie and pajamas. 

“Even though I was established in my career when I let the “her” in me breathe, I was still nervous bringing all of me to work.” Ilan recounts in a story of how Ilan got the confidence to be his/herself loud and proud. “I remember a ridiculous moment at the Wonder building we had just finished and where we were officing. A banker who lent on the project dropped in unexpectedly to stake some pictures to share the success of the deal. I had this foolish fear I would lose the loan from him that made the project possible if he knew how I wore a wig and a dress (or on that day actually a killer set of bellbottom jeans and very cute black top). I ended up avoiding him by ducking in and out of the maze of commercial suites and vacant units. I was steps ahead of him til I found an open unit to quickly wash off makeup and change to meet him, without my wig as the bald headed, blue button down blazer buy he knew. When I did ‘bump into him,’ he was gracious and happened to compliment my still painted nails, assuming my daughter had painted them. A year or so later, I was done hiding. The same banker met the female me in a dress at some business social I was openly attending. He had heard from others about all the ‘mes’ months before that the nails were not a thing with my daughter but rather all me. He was beyond accepting. Eventually, through this and other moments, I realized the person that I most needed acceptance from was myself. I think that is a life long challenge for all of us." Operating a hotel in a former Catholic School, Ilan began looking for ways to pay it forward, and share some of the support he/she had received along the way.

A mother of a formerly closeted gay student that graduated the Immaculata school when it was still in operation approached Ilan at a Leavenworth Local hotel event and shared her joy in seeing Ilan’s confidence in a non-traditional gender presentation at school where her son held in so much shame. This meeting drove home for Ilan that just being more visible as him and herself could be deeply impactful. Still, Ilan wanted to do more.

“Spend the Night” is one of many efforts Ilan is working on through the hotel to be more present. This adult themed comedy night showcases non-traditional comic voices telling edgy and non-traditional jokes. The night can get a bit bawdy, with the adult topics and sex positive voices. As an example, the first performance at the Local featured a Bert and Ernie puppet burlesque by a performer that words cannot capture. Suffice it to say, the audience is unlikely to see Rubber Duckies the same way again.

This Spend the Night performance will belong to Lea’h Sampson, a beautiful and absolutely hilarious young Black woman. Women generally and Women of Color more specifically are deeply underrepresented in comedy and getting Lea’h a full house on her over the top comedy tour is a mission Ilan and the Local has gladly taken on. More on Lea’h at https://linktr.ee/Leahsampson.

Ilan will also be taking the stage briefly as well. Ilan cut his/her teeth in the KC poetry circuit before the pandemic and is working on his/her first comedic piece to present for the May 20th event, if Stacy, Megan and Lea’h approve. If it bombs, have no fear there will be a lot of very good comedy to make up for this swing and a miss.

For other aspiring comics (and Ilan) , Stacy will be hosting a writers workshop at the hotel the next morning. Details available on Facebook and Eventbrite. The week after the Local Anniversary, LV arts, a local arts group that got its start around the same time as the Local will be hosting Truth in Comedy. The hits keep coming at the Leavenworth Local!