Sunday, October 05, 2014

Looking around upstairs on the Square

We weren't sure Saturday morning how many would turn out for the Upper-story Housing Tour sponsored by the Design Division of Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street. I figured there would be plenty of time to leave my post upstairs at Piper's and visit the other sites. There wasn't.

As it turned out we had about 60 paying guests (a really good result) who were divided into small groups and guided from site to site. So the flow was constant during the two-hour event, there weren't many breaks and I was too busy talking to take many photographs. 

The approach to my post, above the northeast corner of the square, was the sturdy original Piper's exterior staircase that, as the project nears completion, will be restored and outfitted with new treads and handrails. Kris Patrick (top), Chariton Main Street coordinator, is leading a tour group down here. The original upstairs front door is elsewhere under restoration right now, so a good deal of plywood is involved in the makeshift replacement currently in use.

That door leads into a hallway providing access to a one-bedroom apartment with huge windows overlooking the square to the south and a considerably more spacious two-bedroom apartment to the north, overlooking North Grand Street to the east through equally large windows. 

The living room of the one-bedroom apartment is my favorite space in the building. The concrete block walls evident here reflect one of the first major restoration efforts on the square, undertaken some years ago by Jill Kerns after the upper level of the south facade developed structural issues. To correct the problem, the upper south wall and a small portion of the east wall were taken down, rebuilt in concrete, then refaced with the original facing brick surrounding windows that replicated the originals. It's impossible to tell from the outside that this work was undertaken --- the sign of high-quality restoration.

Guests here are standing in the double doors between the living and dining rooms of the north apartment, which also includes two large bedrooms and a bath and a half plus kitchen area. Everyone spent a lot of time looking up at Piper's --- the ceilings here are nearly 12-foot. 

The apartments have been rewired and replumbed, so we were able to tell where counters, cabinetry, appliances and washers and dryers will be installed and take a look at the sprinkler system that will protect residents (and property). Finishing work will commence here soon --- work crews move in stages from one to another of the three buildings where 10 apartments are under construction. Piper's is third in the sequence.

Once the project is completed --- scheduled for January now --- reproduction windows will have been installed in all of the east-facing openings now partially blinded, walls will have been resurfaced and floors will have been refinished. Nearly all of the original woodwork remains in place at Piper's and that will be restored, too.

I didn't make in up to Linda and John Braida's apartment on the third floor of the Hotel Charitone, but you'll find interior photos of that apartment and others in the Charitone, taken during July, by going here. The Braida apartment is behind all the third-floor windows in this view of the Chariton's west facade, shot from the top of the Piper's stair.

John was busy greeting guests most of the morning, but after the tour had ended officially came downstairs and I joined him, with Alyse Hunter as our guide, to visit two other spaces --- apartments in the Iowa Realty building and the wonderful space upstairs at Colene Black's I.O.O.F. Building.

The upper level of the Iowa Realty Building contains four apartments, two in each of its halves. We visited the two apartments over the north half --- a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom unit --- each with a separate entrance off the exterior stair on the north side of the building. This half of the 1879 building's upstairs, by the way, was the site of Chariton's first public library.

Here, the walls are nearing completion and cabinetry is piled high. This is the living room of the west unit, overlooking the square. Here, as in all the other apartments, restored or reproduced windows will be installed during final phases of the project to flood the rooms with light. Evidence of a long-ago fire is visible on the exposed brick south wall of this room. The photo below shows the kitchen (minus cabinetry and appliances), in the east, two-bedroom unit.

I didn't even begin to do the old I.O.O.F. Lodge rooms over Lindy's Closet in Colene's building justice, but you can get some idea of the dramatic spaces, largely unchanged since the building was constructed in 1904, up there.

A stairway between Lindy's Closet and Piper's leads up from Braden Avenue into a lobby which open to the north into the vast auditorium/ceremonial room formerly used by lodge members. This room, with north-facing windows, has a coved ceiling and although it has been redecorated retains its original shape.

To the south, a huge room --- originally reception room and parlor --- is flooded with light from south-facing windows. Colene and her husband, Eddie Black, use the entire area now principally for family gatherings and events and have outfitted it as a vast bed-sitting room, used when guests are present.

The original restroom and robing room for lodge members runs along the west wall behind the western-most window facing the square and although updated with new plumbing is entirely intact --- including the rows of closets where lodge members once kept their regalia.

A complete kitchen has been installed in a smaller room between the parlor/reception room and the main auditorium. The west wall of this room consists of storage areas behind original paneled doors.

It's a spectacular area that most who spend time on the square are entirely unaware of, so we were very grateful that Colene and Eddie allows us to visit.

Thanks to all who participated as guests or volunteers Saturday morning, but especially to those who allowed us to visit --- Colene Black at the I.O.O.F. Building, Jill Kerns at Piper's, Linda and John Braida at the Hotel Charitone and Betty Hansen at Iowa Realty.


This is a busy Sunday --- but don't forget the annual Farm Crawl from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. today at seven locations: Blue Gate Farm, Coyote Run Farm, Crooked Gap Farm, Pierce's Pumpkin Patch, Reichert's Dairy Air, Schneider Orchards and White Breast Pottery and Weaving. You'll find complete information and directions here.

I'm going to have to pass on the crawl this year since there are three places I'd like to be at roughly the same time, and can only manage two. So I'll make it to the potluck in Corydon and then hope to hook up with Martha Skillman's birthday hike and pie tasting at Pin Oak Marsh and beyond a little later. Have a great day wherever you are!

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