One of the driving forces in the preservation of historic buildings around the country is, ironically enough, a cutting-edge trend built on high-tech entrepreneurship. It is led by the Millennials, who see the benefit of tapping into restored structures while creating their urban hubs of innovation. News accounts tell how the renewed sense of community is revitalizing towns such as Durham, North Carolina, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and San Diego, California. In these cities, you can see turn-of-the-century buildings anchoring historic districts filled with apartments, restaurants, and businesses.
Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. has seen this first-hand. We played a role in the restoration of Chicago’s Sullivan Center, adding authentic touches such as the painted cast bronze grilles we replicated using historic pictures. Even retired HACI cofounder Robert Baird is helping restore the old Odd Fellows Club in downtown Brooklin, Maine, which, according to an article last fall in The Weekly Packet, will house two apartments and commercial space related to boats and boat-building.
- Restoration is the ultimate in recycling, although something built in the 1800′s probably isn’t considered “green” by today’s standards. Instead of trashing what are probably far better building materials than you can get today, such as true hardwood floors, you can save some money on materials. Chances are, if the building was built before WWII, it will stand longer than any you would build to replace it. And, you never know what’s hidden in an old building. You may find gorgeous pressed tin ceilings underneath suspended tiles, or a bas-relief buried behind 1970′s-era paneling.
- Restoration is economically sound. According to Curbed, American Underground (a subterranean hub underneath a turn-of-the-century building) brought more than $50 million in venture funding by 2017, along with 1,100 jobs and $1.4 million in spending it has driven toward area businesses. For Durham, this is a quintessential success story.
- Renovation hits close to home. Salt Lake City was ranked the third-best market for commercial development in the Urban Land Institute’s 2018 Emerging Trends report. You can see this in the Central 9th District, where old warehouses are being converted to office spaces for tech firms. In 1973, architect Steven T. Baird and sons David, Richard, and Robert restored the ZCMI Department Store façade, one of the first cast-iron preservation projects of its kind. Later, in 2007, Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. restored the storefront again, and it now welcomes shoppers as a contemporary Macy’s.
While it might have taken others a few decades to catch on to the value of making the old new again, Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. will continue to play a major role in the preservation of historic metal-cast architecture in years to come. It’s our legacy and we’re proud of it.