Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Burgman Restoration: The "Adventure" of lighting for the Kitchen

While I have spent a great deal of time determining the design of the upstairs residence kitchen. It's look ( a fine Victorian Mansion  Butler's Pantry)  The size and placement of every detail, the perfect lighting has been  elusive. I didn't want something that was modern but I wanted something that will put out enough light and can be controlled to light up and down over the island. Knowing our cabinetry will be dark and the ceiling done in a bronzed tin, finding just the right light ( I needed a pair) has taken me in many directions.

This is with just two bulbs lit (on display in the shop window)
After looking and looking I think we have found the solution and like any solution it was not because we couldn't find it, it was that the purchase was complex. The only way we could get the matching pair of lights we needed was to buy 10. Yes ten matching Gothic chandeliers. They would only sell them in a lot not individually. So we bought all of these.

This was challenge loading all of these in the Kia but we managed.
What makes these the right lights are that there are SEVEN light sockets, 3 up, 3 facing at a slight angle  down (for side lighting) and one facing straight down. By wiring these  to three separate wall switches I can control the lighting just as I need it.

So one problem solved. Now I just need to sell the other eight off.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Burgman Building Restoration: Detective work continues.

Looking from across the street, we see the Well house/brew barn and to the right a long gone cottage.
We continue to learn more about the Burgman building. One of the biggest mysteries of course is the "dependencies", the accessory buildings on the Burgman site and what they were for. research in this are is hard to do as the first Sanborn maps were from 1906 for this neighborhood and of course our building was built in 1884, and the second Burgman building was built in 1896 down the street.

We can see from this circa 1890 photo that to the left of the Burgman there appears to be some structure and this pre-dated the construction of the 1896 commercial building down the street. We think there may have been the stables for the Burgman delivery vehicles and horses and some recent yard work have revealed some stone foundations that we believe may have been the site of the stable, just north of the building.

The only photo to date showed the doors of the well house/brew barn but nothing else
Of course the brew barn and well house building behind the building has always been a mystery because while some people remember it, there were no good photos other than one showing the doors, until now.

We have the first good view of the side storefront added Circa 1920-30 and we can see the cornice over the back door.
The family of the neighbor across the street have been going through family photos and some pieces of the puzzle are here. Back in the very late 40's early 50s they had a a huge catalpa tree removed across the street on Smead and the family took photos. This view shows the structure behind the building. We had surmised some things about this building, we KNOW it was the well house (well is still there) and we assumed the other park was used as a summer kitchen. Later on it was used by the saloon for beer and wine bottling and this has some use relative to the beer gardens

This view clearly shows the relationship of the buildings with the well house/brew barn and the the  cottage behind it which we understand was demoed in the 1960's, Interesting to note there was a nice hedge that was next to the sidewalk and help enclose the gardens.

Next steps will be some archaeological digging!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Requiem for Mid Century Modern...it's OVER !

At the risk of enraging some of my colleagues who sell "trends".  Its time to plan the funeral for MCM, its over, you all had a good run with it but its dead.

Mid Century Modern has been hyped by so called antique dealers for over a decade now. Dealers in it have done a good job of convincing the buying public  (mostly Millennials) that , "Its only going up in value". But as I watch the purveyors of this , one by one, closing their doors, its clear to see that hype, and reality, rarely are the same.

The problem with hype and trends is that it gets copied, and the early market in "good MCM" and their was some made by well thought of designers of that era,  did deserve its due as a collectible. The problem became the hype and before long 'so called  "designer/dealers" (bored housewives with a husband looking for tax loss write-off), went far and wide to every second hand store, Goodwill and Salvation army buying any and everything including 1960's mass made junk furniture and put outrageous tags on it, reupholstered in it orange and lime green and it was the new 'hot thing'. 20 dollar thrift store blond dining room chest being tagged for thousands  as "Designer mid century credenzas" and there was a willing market of Millennials and 'style unconscious  people' thinking they were buying 'real antiques' that would go up in value and impress their friends.

If that wasn't bad enough the manufacturers got into it and Ikea, Target, Wayfare, Hayneedle and every low end furniture maker flooded the market with cheapo copies.  Now years later, Millennial's, who now have real jobs and looking at this stuff with different eyes, and the fact all their friends have the exact same furniture are tossing it 'literally' to the curb. Like Black Chain beaten distressed farmhouse furniture in the 1990's and white cottage shabby furniture 2000's its all going on the bonfire of "bad taste" fueled with shiplap and pallets from HGTV. It's OVER, let it die, put it out of its misery.

So what is happening? People are buying real antiques again, even Millenial's, who serial watch re-runs of Downton Abbey and play video game set in mythical land with houses that look like Gothic castles and dress in steampunk cloths, have come to be intrigued in fine antiques again, even Victorian.

Millenials however don't decorate in it, they "design" with it, treating that Victorian Gothic chair as a piece of art to be displayed. Millennials travel too (vacations are their thing) and they are looking for that piece that reminds them of those travels. After all their phone is filled with photos and selfies but you can't display them in your home and unless we intend to bring back the old fashioned slide show where you endlessly bore your friends with photos of your travels, buying an antique that reminds you of your trip, appears to be the latest thing to do. That trip to England? Say a hand colored 19th century engraving or a Gothic chair.  A fine marquetry side table that reminds you of France, or a antique Syrian inlayed table that reminds you of your trip to the Middle East. People are becoming interested in buying things that "remind".

So as we all watch the death rattle of MCM and the desperate hype of dealers exclaiming " No..this is a real investment". Go buy what you like, what strikes you...buy the things that remind.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Antique of the Week- A Cherry Empire Game Table

Bringing back on our readers favorites: Antique of the Week. We will try to keep this going every week because we know you all loved this series.

This week an Empire Game Table circa 1845-1850. Nice original Cherry Finish. Classic lines. Contact us if interested this will not last long.

For a small town to be a strong town? It needs vision

The biggest things that keep small towns from being a strong town is lack of vision, or having it, and being fearful  to use it.

While I love the small town of Logansport Indiana that I have both my business and home in. I have realized there are issues that prevent it from becoming all it could be. Part of it is a culture of people waiting for the ”Magic Factory”  that will come and provide all those good paying jobs lost in the 1960’s and 70’s and local government  relying on “Consultants” and a inexperienced city planning department, to guide their future rather than use ‘vision’ and feel confident in their ability to understand the basics of doing what will have positive outcomes rather than being fearful of attempting the unknown.

Case in point our local historical society.  There was an offer from the owners of a local bank to ‘donate’ a 4 story commercial property sitting on a prime piece of real estate in the downtown (essentially 3/4 of an entire city block). The building was built decades ago and shows it age and it was built on the “car centric model “ 4 story density office building/bank with huge parking lots to service it.  BUT it is essentially an entire city block opportunity. Bounded by 3rd and 4th street and Market and Broadway, it is a key essential block in the downtown's future.

If you look at the 1898 map you can see the urban density of the site. Multiple separate buildings with a variety of businesses insured that if one or two failed that there was sufficient retail mass to attract replacement. 

The only building left remaining of this entire city block is this 1800 era multi story that is home to a local restaurant. Note the 'thumbnail park' the local governments answer to everything.

The property is across from the first major downtown investment in decades.  A 3 million dollar investment in an old hotel turned offices, back to a mixed use first floor retail will be reopened to the street with market rate apartments on the upper floors. This development represents a “game changer” and occurred only after the failure of developers (needing grants from other sources) to do low income housing. In the scheme of things, housing costs are so low here that ‘low income housing' is frankly, not needed. This new developer, from out of town, has come in to do market rate. This market rate housing will bring a demographic to downtown that is sorely lacking and represents the return of “over the shop housing” and a key component to downtown rebirth

There is no denying the issues are complex. The Historical Society runs a Museum house, a dying breed in itself; they have a large collection that they cannot display in the current facility, but lacks the ability to generate community interest to keep it relevant. Some generous donors have stepped forward with grants/gifts to make this project happen, but even with that, there is not enough support among the board to take the leap and get outside their comfort zone. So what could be a game changer becomes another missed opportunity.

A once vibrant downtown decimated by parking lots and one way streets
What should happen with this site? Well the city could have been a partner with the nonprofit historical society in redevelopment, but the city officials lack an understanding of the inherent value of the site.  A series of action and lack of action by the city has resulted in a downtown of parking lots and scattered thumbnail parks, that not only create no destination, but provide no residential housing downtown to have a vibrant downtown.

The problem is the city plan?  One of several 10 and 20 year plans calls for nothing more than another downtown park/plaza on land to the east of this site. Another "town square“ type of proposal with the  obligatory small convention center, and lets not forget a parking garage, done by ‘consultants’ that generates no revenue and no tax base but is somehow suppose to be a catalyst for change and rebirth. If that sounds like the failed pedestrian mall effort of the 1980’s to make downtown relevant? This is the modern iteration. A failed idea, doomed from the start that would also involve the demolition of more buildings too. Simply replacing pavement with green space does not revitalize the downtown. What is does accomplish, is, it locks an entire block of downtown into no future development, no new housing or business and becomes a liability to maintain.

What is needed here is an understanding that for the town to be vibrant and to grow it needs a return to the pre WW2 density. In this case retail, small scale, with residential above.  Not the current new urbanist large box first floor type of model, because, large retail is not returning to the downtown. What is needed is 750-900 sq ft retail, with maybe one anchor 2000 sq ft tenant on the corner. This insures long term stability of the streetscape.

The quadrant on the South could be developed first and it would sit on a block with a long established restaurant and across the street a classic Art Deco Theatre acquired by a nonprofit that is working towards its restoration, it is the type of event venue that will bring and retain younger people in the community.

Once that first phase is built, one can gauge the value of it and obviously the next phase down the road would be the NE quadrant (corner of 4th and Broadway)  that could have more of the same, (or could have been a new county historical society museum),with the ultimate goal the renovations of the Bank/office building into more street retail (restaurant/bar and shops) with higher end condominiums on the upper floors and the construction of a smaller parking garage to accommodate resident parking. 

This site, sitting where it does, has views of both the Wabash and Eel Rivers and historic Bankers Row and could be potentially be the most valuable property in town.

Impossible? No it’s done all the time and is a proven model of re-urbanization of downtown surface lots everywhere with success. The obstacle is finding the Politician's and a planning department to get out of their comfort zone. Yes, I just made a lot of people at city hall even more out of their comfort zone with this blogpost, but without a community dialog and bringing these systemic issues/problems to light? Nothing ever changes

Monday, June 25, 2018

Summer Preservation Workshops: Stencilling July 14 & 15

We will be doing a series of summer workshops on a variety of topics with old house owner in mind.

The first of these workshops is on  Stenciling . The dates are July 14th and 15th. Classes will run from 12:30 to 2:30 and will cover a variety of topics including history and use of stencils (especially in the Victorian Era) how to place and use stencils as well as  the "hands on" part of the workshop where participants will get some hand on experience with how to actually use stencils. Materials are provided for the class.

Workshop cost is 35.00 and class size is limited to 8 per class so you need to register as soon as possible as we expect both sessions to sell out.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Saving an Iconic Building. Why places matter: BK East

Small town are unique places. This is why people want to live there. They have memories there too which is why, maybe more than the fact its historic eligible, people want to save this.

Most small towns had "that place". The place where people went  to hang out,  a place that was maybe their first job, maybe their first date, or first kiss. A place where you would load the kids in the car and go to. The drive in restaurant.

The drive in was a product of the post WW2 era. Our highways were expanding and towns were getting closer together. In Logansport that place was BK East. In most cities and towns those iconic places where the community gathered are long gone. Bulldozed, and only a part of a rapidly diminishing collective memory. For Logansport, that place still stands , but perhaps not for long.

The owners want to sell and apparently there is no one to pass the business on to. So it, a house and some lots they own next to it are for sale. the asking price was over 400,000 dollars.

Apparently they have a buyer . Burger King. Burger King is not an iconic place the community gathers, its a place we speed through on our way home or rush into on a short lunch to get something that resembles food. It is not BK East and its not part of a collective memory.
 Burger King won't preserve it, but rather will Bulldoze it and a 1900 era house next too it and build their usual bland chain restaurant on the site.

Now I can bore you with all the reasons the property is historically significant. "Rare example of a Mid century roadside drive in restaurant", sits in the Riverside Historic District and is a "contributing structure" and eligible for individual nomination  based on architecture" but to the people who grew up in this small town, those things are unimportant. It is, and unless the community shows up at the May 21st zoning meeting, WAS, a place that the community gathered and made memories.

It is just one of those things that make this community special, and since Logansport Landmarks announced its immediate peril and hastily elevated it to number 1 position on the Logansport Landmarks most endangered list for 2018, the community outrage is both mighty and deep. Their Facebook page was flooded with views. Over 24,000 in a little over 12 hours, the announcement was shared by over 300 and shared again and again.  For a community that has stood by for far to long and ignored their history, the thought of this loss, may be the final straw. It's too important to them. People who worked there, people who played there , people for whom the memories are too deep and too personal may not stand by and let this pass by the wayside. The people of Logansport are about to fight a big corporate, unthinking, uncaring, chain restaurant to preserve their history. BK East is not about to fade into history without a MAJOR fight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Burgman Building: A Treasure trove of History Revealed

A treasure-trove of History Revealed today. So its Wednesday and my day off and I'm working upstairs on the dining room when the phone rings. Its Bill Burgman  (Grandson of Ferdinand Burgman II) on the line and says they are downstairs and didn't realize I was closed today but they had some photos they thought I'd want to see. Took maybe 10 seconds and I was downstairs and opening up the door. And today we now have a treasure trove of Building History.

We figure this view must be early 1889-1892
Not one but two photos of the building, The earlier one "pre saloon" shows the original side configuration  of the building and some things we didn't know... another wider door (probably doubles and another round window ! We can also see the design of the chimneys Given the condition of the upper awning they were well worn so several years after the building was built.  But we know its pre 1893 because the building next door was not yet built, but there was  a wooden structure on the site.

circa 1895-1905
The next photo is later Circa 1895-1905 based one the growth of the tree and we can see Ivy had taken over the fence. Note the changes, Awnings have been replaced upstairs and the trim work fa├žade  and window cornices had been painted a lighter color and instate of three individuals awning across the front of the building there is now one larger awning that spans the entire front of the store.

The interior of the store showed the depth of goods offered by Burgman Bros. Also note the Gas lighting in the front room of the store. The gas fitting is still in the ceiling where this light once was. Ferdinand Burhman I,  is behind the counter. We may be able to date this more accurately based on the products and signage. The store was backed to the brim with inventory!

Here we see members of the Burgman family in the grand  "Persian Parlor' this room must have been very important to the family because most photography was done "in studio" back then and bringing a photographer out to the home was reserved for the "well off" in society and was a bit of a status symbol, note they are quite comfortable on the formal settee.

A view of Burgman family life with the kids in the "Garland Parlor" which was the second floor residence 'reception room'. Looks like a Bradley and Hubbard plant stand.

This is a view outside (later on and looks to show Ferdinand Burgman II (all grown up now) with other family members and shows the Old Well house and Brew Barn in the background.

So to say we are happy to have this kind of documentation is putting it mildly. Its so rare to have this kind of history.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Formal Dining Room: The "Chaos" of restoration !

If you own a old house and are restoring, chaos is your friend. At least for me it is. With about 7 weeks until we have the Burgman building open for our annual progress on the restoration, we tackled the dining room. Or should I say we are re-creating a dining room.

Back in  the day this was the formal dining room of the Burgman, just off the Garland reception room this would have been the formal dining room when built. Of course that was before the growth of the Burgman family because this room was pressed into service as a bedroom. We know this because closets were added ( a late 1800's/early 1900's sort of thing and their depth tells is it was earlier rather than later. Doors were closed in and this room , as often the case with old houses, was re-purposed.

Stripping the cast iron mantle that will house a gas burning insert
Trying to keep this room on the same Formality" as the Garland and Persian parlors requires some thought. Or first step on that journey was last year when we opened up the original doorway and added back colonnades that not only recreated the space but added more light to the dark hallway. We also decided that this room would have a fireplace mantle (to house a future gas insert) and that it would be done in a formal aesthetic.

Colonnades were added back into their original location

So the plan is as follows: we are continuing with the ebonized woodwork in the dining room.

1/4 inch Oak forms the background to the wainscot and trim boards are being routed to duplicate the door trim 

We are installing a wood wainscot.
This gold upholstery (30 yards of it) will make up the primary wall fill

The walls will be upholstered from above the wainscot, with a Aesthetic Rose gold upholstery fabric.

Above the top plate rail will be a stenciled frieze and the ceiling will be stenciled and new medallion  installed.

Hey seven weeks is breeze, right? Well of course not. the ceiling was replaced in this room at some point and they TEXTURED IT! so you might say well "just rip  it down and redo it" , right? Well, no because there is 30 inches of blown in insulation in the attic, and you guessed it , it would all fall down if we tore down that drywall.

Sooooo, we are removing the texture off the ceiling. One of the dirtiest jobs that a homeowner has to do, something hat takes a few minutes to do in the first place takes HOURS to remove, as you can see its a process and I will have to re tape the joints too because they didn't do a great job because they were texturing.

The good news is that with the wooden wainscot and the upholstered walls we don't have as much wall prep to do.

We will keep you posted!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

And the Winner is? LOGANSPORT !

We have always have had a knack for knowing when a place has a future. And people often say where we go, "coolness follows" and much in the way we pioneered in many Indianapolis neighborhoods, restored in old Louisville and in Charleston after Hugo , we have always been able to see the preservation opportunity in places others pass by.

My first exposure to Logansport was in the 1980's when I went to a funeral with a friend of mine and his family and on the way back the route took us through Logansport and , being the architecture nut I am, I was taken by the architecture and I recall seeing the Octagon house and literally said out loud "an Octagon house , do you know how rare those are?"

So Logansport was filed away in the back recesses of my mind and when we began a multi state search a few years ago to relocate our antiques and design business from Indianapolis, well here we are. Everyone knows we found an amazing building, in an amazing neighborhood, that most would not even notice and as usual when we show up the 'gentrification train" follows. People are moving here from Indy, Carmel, Westfield and Chicago. Its noticeable to us, because these people come into our shop looking for an elusive doorknob or stained glass. This migration however is largely lost on many locals who see nothing positive about the place they have grown up in and lament what they see as its demise. They lust for the long dead Mall to revive itself or the "magic factory" to come that will restore the town to some sort of 1960's prosperity.

So while many local people have not been paying attention, things are happening, homes are being bought and restored, new shops are opening all over town like Legacy Outfitters or the Record Farm and lo and behold there are people raising money to reopen an old brewery to be reinvented as a craft brewery.. the trail system is getting better, the farmers market is improving. You have great venues like the State Theatre, and a out of town developer is building market rate apartments in the old Logan hotel building downtown. Things are happening so against this backdrop?

Realtor.com makes the announcement that Logansport Indiana is the Number 1 small city in the US being selected out of 500 small cities !

Some people are stunned and amazed their town was selected, but it makes perfect sense to us. It's the beginning of major changes. It means real estate prices go up, It means more new people and it means change is about to happen.

Yes the gentrification train is coming. There is a reason why our neighborhood fought a low income house project a couple of years ago. Logansport deserves better than "development for development sake". We have an ability to chart our future, control sprawl and  keep the quality of the city high. Will local leaders understand this? I hope so, because the next 5-10 years are going to be exciting and I'm personally glad we are here to be a part of it.