05 January 2017 - Scott Geither
Sometimes, a building is just too good to change it in total. We do a lot of adaptation, since our building stock in the region has far outlasted its original use. Each project presents a series of choices. Do we translate the character of the building to feel new or do we celebrate the integrity of the original structure? We have done both and can guarantee the decision-making is a struggle. We are typically torn, since we see value in each consideration and we work hard with owners to discern a path.
So, tough choices establish the foundation of working to preserve history. In the case of an owner who wants to side with historic integrity, the architect and designer’s job becomes a bit more intensive in terms of research. The renovation of 738 Bryden Road in the Old Town East neighborhood of Columbus serves as a relevant, recent example of the various choices that come with historic preservation projects. This building was built in the early 1900’s as a lodge for the Columbus School for girls. There were roughly thirty lodges that housed the students along with the head mistress and house mother. The building had been neglected over the years and deteriorated. Numerous groups had attempted to renovate this gem but came short by hacking away the original bones and architectural integrity. The owner wanted our team to restore the historic integrity and capitalize on the original beauty of the structure and its elaborate detailing.
Starting with the exterior, the team worked closely with representatives from the Columbus Historic Resources Commission and the Old Town East Historic to understand the rules and proper guidelines for updating and repairing exterior materials and colors. Monthly commission meetings were part of our project schedule, and allowed the team to select appropriate materials for roofing and exterior facade colors. The owner of the building came across a historic image from the 1950’s that we used for reference. Looking at the image, the team was able to re-create the front entry porch and bring back the original wood trim detailing. Scraps of the original iron fencing that surrounded the perimeter of the grounds were used as a reference for a local iron company to forge a new fence as well. The team had to research and consider code requirements to make this older building ADA accessible. The team took into consideration adding an additional entry point, to allow for a strategically designed lift, in order to minimize the impact to the original integrity of the building.
On the interior of Bryden, the team repaired and exposed brick walls throughout the twelve apartment units to convey an honest relationship between the building’s exterior and interior. The bones of the stairwells were beautiful and filled with 100-year-old wood railings and wood trim that was preserved and brought back to life. On top of the woodwork is a beautiful, slightly decayed mural that is planned to be rehabilitated. The structural components of the foundation were unsafe and unstable, therefore, proper safety precautions were put into place. Foundation walls were raked and joints were re-grouted to add additional living space.
The success of a project like this relies on many factors, one being the dedication and value for preserving "historic integrity" that our team believes in so deeply. In a time that generic architectural structures are popping up throughout the Midwest, we understand the importance of adapting a 100-year-old, timeless structure and relish the chance to work with dedicated teams to bring these structures back to life. Through research of materials and products, and working closely with the Historic Commissions, we are able restore structures and extend their useful lives in service to society.
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