Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Demichelis Building blinks, then opens its eyes

The Demichelis Building, which blinked some months ago when upper-level openings were uncovered, now has opened its eyes --- all 21 of them --- fully. New custom-built windows are in place as the four new upstairs apartments in the building move closer to being ready for occupancy.

The four apartments under construction here are part of Chariton's 10-unit upper-level housing initiative that also includes two apartments in the Piper's Building and four apartments in the Iowa Realty Building. The project is funded by a state-administered grant of federal funds along with owner and city matches. Occupancy is scheduled for later this year or early in 2105.

Amanda and Jason Demichelis now own this great old building on the northwest corner of the square, constructed during 1906 by Jay J. Smyth as headquarters for his new Commericial Bank. An additional ground-floor storefront was rented out as were office and residential spaces upstairs. The identical double-front building to the east was built during the same year by Jay. J.'s brother, W.H. Smyth. A disastrous fire during December of 1905 had destroyed earlier Smyth buildings as well as three others on the north side.

The Demichelis Law Firm occupies this building's northerly annex, added some years later to house The Chariton Leader and other commercial ventures. The annex is not involved in the current project.

After Jay J. Smyth died in 1920, the building passed to his son, Porter Smyth, and then to his daughter, Marilyn (Smyth) Johnson. Marilyn can tell some great stories about the old building --- who would think, for example, that during the coldest weather someone had to sleep with the furnace in order to keep it operating?

Eventually, the market for upper-level offices and housing on the square dried up, rooms were closed off and, finally, a later owner blocked the windows and disconnected the building's second level from the grid.

The Demichelis have done a tremendous amount of work on the building, replacing its roof entirely, for example; and reworking the upper level of the annex.

Here's how the building looked before upper-level windows were reopened.

This post card view shows how the building looked not long after construction.

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