Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Restoration vision at Chariton Vision Center

The Chariton Vision Center building, constructed during 1904 by Horace G. Larimer and his father-in-law, N.B. Hollinger, always has been kept in good repair. But as in a number of other structures around the square, the many windows that lighted its second floor --- always a commercial space --- were closed and blinded during the latter half of the 20th century when the market for second-floor tenants declined.

So the reopening of 10 of those giant windows after rebuilding and reinstallation has been among the most noticeable aspect of the building's restoration as part of Chariton's Facade Improvement Program, which began last fall and is nearing completion now.

The new "old" look of the structure was completed last week when a fixed canopy, weatherized fabric over a metal frame, was installed --- a contemporary nod to the original awnings used on the building, awnings that had to cranked out, then cranked in, daily.

Another clever reference to the past is the fact that "Chariton Vision Center" signage in long strips above the awning is in the same location as the signage of its first commercial occupants.

Although all windows in the building's "show" facade were restored and reopened, more than a dozen windows on the north side of the building remain closed, but the original blinding materials have been replaced with framed black panels to recreate the "feel" of windows where windows, in fact, no longer exist. A smaller awning, mirroring the large on in front, has been installed over the side door.

The street level office facade also has been rebuilt in a manner more compatible with the original look of the building.

Here's how the building (at far right) looked soon after it was completed.

Here's how it looked during 2011 before restoration began.

And here's how it looks now.

The Vision Center building sits on the footprint of the north half of the Mallory Opera House, built during the early 1870s and destroyed in a massive blaze during early January, 1904. At the time of the fire, the ground floor of the opera house was occupied by both the Oppenheimer and Hollinger & Larimer stores. The fire also took out commercial buildings to the south owned by the Storie and Lockwood families.

Construction of their replacements began as soon as rubble could be cleared away and spring arrived. The Lockwoods and the Stories rebuilt on the sites of their old buildings; Oppenheimer and Hollinger & Larmer divided the Opera House lots and built independent structures. These buildings continue to form one of the most harmonious and complete suites of early 20th century commercial buildings in southern Iowa.

The Vision Center/Hollinger & Larmier building was gutted by another blaze on Jan. 1, 1928 --- a loss, with stock, estimated at $100,000 --- but was rebuilt immediately within the sturdy exterior walls of the 1904 building.

Restoration of the north half of the 1869 Manning & Penick Building still is under way at the alley end of the west side's north half, so I'll come back to it when the project is complete. But here's the way the four 1904 buildings constructed after the big opera house fire looked on Sunday morning. All of these buildings remain in good repair thanks to their owners.

The Fifth Mile building, originally Lockwood, acquired a beautifully designed storefront not long after that business opened and other conservation work has been carried out on the facade; the owners of Casa De Oro, originally Storie, moved quickly after opening their restaurant to replace the bright yellow and red paint previous owners had applied to the entire facade with a painted surface that replicates the colors of the original brick; and the owners of the Oppenheimer Building have refreshed the street-level facade of that building with new signage to come.

The Fifth Mile, Casa De Oro and Oppenheimer buildings were not involved in the Facade Improvement Program although their privately undertaken work certainly complements it.

The Facade Improvement Project began during 2013 with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant awarded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority after a highly competitive application process. About a dozen Iowa projects were funded that year.

Project funding was available to all building owners in the Courthouse Square Historic District. The CDBG grant provided about a third of the funds for each facade project, the owner another third and the balance was local match, an amount that will be recovered through Tax Increment Financing. In the end, 15 buildings --- six of them on the west side of the square --- were involved.

A Burlington-based architectural and engineering firm, Klingner & Associates, surveyed the district, then prepared initial and detailed plans for each project. All plans were approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and all work done complied with U.S. Department of the Interior preservation standards. Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street partnered with the city and building owners during every phase of the project.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Wow! The Chariton Vision Center building is BEAUTIFUL!