Renovation work has started on the former campus of the Emmaus Homes in Marthasville.

The Hoffmann Family of Companies plans to transform the buildings into a 20-room boutique hotel complete with a spa and event space called Chateau Hoffmann Winery & Resort.

David and Jerri Hoffmann, the Washington natives who are investing over $120 million into hotels, wineries, bed-and-breakfast establishments and other businesses in the Augusta area with the intent of creating a national wine destination, purchased the 68-acre campus from Wentzville-based Never Lost LLC in May. 

So far, most of the work at the campus has been external. Crews have cleared a hillside facing Highway D of an estimated 200 to 300 trees, so the Emmaus Home Chapel, which was built in 1908, can be visible. Previously, only its steeple peeked above the foliage.

“It’s just too pretty of a building for nobody to be able to see,” said Don Simon, CEO of Missouri operations for the Hoffmann Family of Companies.

Simon said vandalism, including broken windows and spray-painted walls on the property, has been a problem, so the stained glass windows on the chapel are temporarily boarded up to prevent breakage.

An excavator has been in the process of demolishing two buildings that were added to the campus in the 1970s.

“Note the buildings that are being torn down though are because they are not historically accurate,” wrote Chris Armstrong, chief marketing officer for Hoffmann Creative Agency, a subsidiary of the Hoffmann Family of Companies, in an email. “We are restoring the campus to its original state from the 1800s.”

Eight buildings will be left standing, Simon said, including the main chapel and a smaller adjacent chapel.

According to the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation’s website, the original campus of five buildings was erected in 1859 for a seminary for the German Evangelical Church. The five original buildings are built of limestone in the style brought by German immigrants. Four structures remain in various states of disrepair: the farm house, bake oven, friedensbote publishing house and dormitory. The college building was lost in a fire in 1930. In 1893, the facility became known as the Emmaus Asylum for Epileptics and Feeble Minded. On-site employee housing was added later in the 20th century.

According to Missourian archives, at times over 100 clients lived at Emmaus Homes when it was used for support services. Since the parceled sale of the property, including Never Lost, to various buyers, which netted $561,000 total, those clients have resided in houses throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. 

The buildings that are still standing are being power-washed, and the renovation of employee housing is nearing completion. 

The Hoffmanns currently employ about 150 people, Simon estimated, and he said by the time expansion in the region is complete, the number may be 300 to 400. There are 24 bedrooms in the employee housing buildings.

Simon said it would be a year to 18 months before all of the renovations are complete and guests will be able to book a stay at Chateau Hoffmann Winery & Resort. 

He said on top of the undisclosed purchase price, the Hoffmanns have invested “a couple million” dollars into what Simon estimates to be a $15 million to $20 million project. The demolition work is being done by Hoffmann employees, but Simon said when construction starts, the company will hire contractors.

Simon said renovations on the outside will continue; then, the focus will turn to indoor renovations. The building, which used to be a dormitory, will be transformed from about 60 rooms to 20. He said there aren’t any current plans to add buildings to the campus, but future additions to the property could include pickleball courts, vineyards and hiking trails through the wooded hillside behind the future hotel.