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Historic Preservationists Excavate Downtown Businesses

Annie Rees
Pat Fowler shines a flashlight for contractor Kevin Landry, who examines how to remove an original cast-iron radiator from a wall in the basement of the James Condominium on Saturday, March 21.

Before Quinton’s, the James Condominium and Britches Clothing are demolished in downtown Columbia next month, historic preservationists are excavating historic items to save and repurpose.

"When we walked into this room, we all went, 'wow,'" Pat Fowler said, referring to a basement closet where she and her team found a “treasure trove” of items.

Fowler is a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, and she headed a group of volunteers in excavating the James Condominium on Saturday, March 19. Built in 1903, the building is located on Tenth Street next to the Niedermeyer, a historic building downtown that narrowly escaped being demolished in 2012.

At the James on Saturday, the Historic Preservation Commission salvaged almost anything that could be removed from the building, such as historic furniture, bathtubs, built-in tables, wall fixtures and all sorts of knick-knacks.

Since Sixth Ward Council Member Betsey Peters put Fowler in touch with developer Eran Fields, Fowler has worked with Fields to ensure that the Historic Preservation Commission could have access to the three buildings slated for demolition.

On Saturday, Fowler worked with her team of volunteers as well as Kevin Landry, a contractor from Brinkmann Constructors who helped take out some of the more difficult-to-remove and potentially dangerous items.

As she was exploring the basement of the building with Landry, searching for more items to save, Fowler came upon two cast-iron radiators original to the building.

“People tell me that those are valuable,” she said.

“Yeah, you can’t find them anymore,” Landry replied.

“Exactly – and that’s why they’re interesting to us,” she said.

The plans for the Historic Preservation Commission are threefold: one, install some pieces downtown; two, donate some to Habitat for Humanity; and three, compile goods for an architectural salvage later this summer.

“Some of the pieces will right off the top be repurposed downtown in some of our historic structures so all of us can enjoy them,” Fowler said. “Because if they had just disappeared again into private homes, we wouldn’t get that opportunity.”

Fields asked for recommendations from the preservationists on how some items can be incorporated into the architectural design of the new Rise Apartments. The 10-story building is expected to take about 16 months to complete. It will house about 205 units and include approximately 3500 square feet of retail space.

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