Open house spotlighted architectural survey of downtown buildings

Photo by Joel StottrupThis mother and child were among the attendees at the open house in Princeton City Hall Monday evening to examine pictures of 22 buildings in the heart of downtown that were included in an architectural survey in the past several months.

Photo by Joel Stottrup
This mother and child were among the attendees at the open house in Princeton City Hall Monday evening to examine pictures of 22 buildings in the heart of downtown that were included in an architectural survey in the past several months.

The public got to look at photos at an open house Monday evening of the buildings that consultants with the Smith & Main, and the MacDonald & Mack firms included in their architectural survey in the central business district.

Photo by Joel StottrupThe Villa Manor apartments building along Rum River Drive in downtown Princeton. Businesses are on the street level, while apartments take up the rest of the structure that was originally known as the building constructed for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Photo by Joel Stottrup
The Villa Manor apartments building along Rum River Drive in downtown Princeton. Businesses are on the street level, while apartments take up the rest of the structure that was originally known as the building constructed for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Smith & Main is a planning/historic preservation and economic development firm, and MacDonald & Mack specializes in historic preservation and architecture.

The city used grant money to employ the two firms to do the survey last October through December. The 22 buildings surveyed were:

1. The chiropractor and law office at 209 Rum River Dr. N

2. The Rocks and Things shop and apartment building at 201-203 Rum River Dr. N

3. The NAPA Auto Parts building at 135 Rum River Dr. N

4. The VFW building at 133 Rum River Dr. N

5. The New China Buffet structure at 131 Rum River Dr. N

6. The Thrifty White Pharmacy gifts and cards building at 119 Rum River Dr. N

7. The Thrifty White Pharmacy at 115 Rum River Dr. N

8. Andy and Teri’s pet store at 111 Rum River Dr. N

9. The corner building that was used by the late attorney Mike Williams and other attorneys at 101 Rum River Dr. S

10. The Windstream and K-Bob Cafe structure listed as 107-111 Rum River Dr. S

11. The Bauer & Associates accounting office building at 121-123 Rum River Dr. S

12. The Coffee Corner building at 502 2nd St. S

13. The Masonic Hall at 101 6th Ave.

14. The Princeton Book & Bible store building at 405 1st St.

15. The building at 501 1st St.

16. The building with the timber-look siding at 507 1st St.

17. The Santa Lucia ice cream building at 513 1st St.

18. The Insurance Shoppe building at 513 1st St.

19. The former bakery building at 514 and 516 1st St.

20. The Rum River Promotions structure at 519 1st St.

21. The Cook’s Floor Covering building at 520 1st St.

22. The Progressive Mortgage building at 521 1st St.

The dozen or so attendees at the open house were given the chance to select among the 22 sites, the top 10 that they would want to see reviewed through the city’s planned facade-improvement study. The results were promised to be on the city of Princeton’s website as of yesterday. Noticeably absent from the 22 sites were the old Odd Fellows building now known as the Villa Manor apartments, the professional building that was once a creamery, and the Dr. Lingle dental building.

Patrick Smith, with Smith & Main, who was at the open house, explained that those three structures were not part of the survey because they are in good enough condition to not need restoration work.

Among the unique or interesting buildings in the city is the old Odd Fellows building. The building is a “gem,” Smith said.

The Odd Fellows organization was a community-service organization and the third story of that building was once a meeting hall, the second floor had law and dental offices and the first level was more retail, Smith said. “The building is in great shape and is definitely something we want to preserve,” Smith said.

The city “has historic gems sporadically throughout the downtown,” Smith added. Downtown redevelopment and a lot of fires unfortunately took away historic buildings.

“But there is enough to give the downtown a historic character that most people would want to preserve,” he said

Smith listed the former creamery building as one that he would want to make sure was kept maintained. The creamery was “so significant here,” he continued. “It raised millions of dollars for the local economy. It’s unbelievable for such a small town, and it was going for a half century and was the dominant industry.” The creamery closed about 33 years ago. Bob Soule Jr., who owns the building, had it remodeled and it has been the location of a number of businesses, including a former nonprofit. Smith said the creamery professional building has a chance of getting listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local businessman Dan Erickson said there would be more historic preservation work going on if there was more money available.

City Development Director Carie Fuhrman and Smith touched briefly on that subject later. Fuhrman suggested that getting a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places would help bring about redevelopment funding.

Smith said that there are also other methods of finding money. He talked about city councils providing incentives in their cities as one way.

Local businessman Ron Stauffer was among those who said they were glad to see the survey work done. He hopes that it will result in some historic preservation work.

Smith noted that the MacDonald & Mack architectural firm can help by estimating preservation costs for specific projects.

Amy Meller, with the MacDonald & Mack firm, says that restoring a building to its exact original appearance can be challenging if photo records are lacking.

One photograph that was among the old photos available at the open house was of the former Princeton Hardware/Evens Hardware building.

The NAPA Auto Parts store is in that building now, with a blue and yellow color scheme and horizontal molding. More information should be coming out within the next several months about the city’s look into its downtown buildings and the effort by the city council to see what role the city can play to help make the downtown more attractive. But again, money will play a part. Smith notes that the city is applying for a state grant of about $7,000 to make a facade improvement study possible.

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