“Preserve,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, means “maintain (something) in its original or existing state.” But the art of preservation, especially as practiced in Huntsville, is as much about the future as the original.
“We don’t want to put a glass dome over buildings and freeze them in time,” says Jessica White, Historic Preservation Consultant for the City of Huntsville. “When you do that they smolder and they go down. You have to provide a relevant use that will keep people’s interest and help sustain those buildings long-term.”
May has been Historic Preservation Month. As part of that observance, the City of Huntsville has recognized, via its #ThisPlaceMattersHsv campaign, over twenty sites that have been glowing examples of preservation and adaptive reuse.
Mayor Battle took part by choosing for locations to honor as part of the “Mayor’s Awards” and each City Council Member recognized at least one location in their districts. What’s more, citizens, preservation enthusiasts and commission members from the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission celebrated historic spaces from every corner of the City with a #ThisPlaceMattersHsv designation.
The four “Mayor’s Award” winners are Huntsville West, Campus No. 805, A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard and Pizzelle’s Confections at Lowe Mill.
They “have come up with innovative ways to reuse those spaces,” White says. “Not just for the benefit of maintaining the building but creating exciting new businesses in Huntsville.
“All four candidates have taken an historic place and reimagined it. That’s what preservation is all about.”
“Mayor’s Award” Winners
With commentary from Jessica White
I love (owner) Brandon Kruse’s line about “a flophouse for entrepreneurs.” You wonder why did Kruse choose that building. The main reason he chose that site wasn’t for historic reason but because schools were so well built. He knew he would have a solid structure.
They maintained the exterior and most of the interior. Most of the changes have been cosmetic, they’ve really kept the spirit of the building alive. Brandon’s story is just amazing, to drive by the school, which had been boarded up and paint was peeling and it was in really rough condition, and he had the vision to buy it and turn it around.
Campus No. 805:
I like how they’ve kept that campus atmosphere. Even though there are a lot of restaurants and bars and an arcade, there’s speakeasy behind lockers. You can still walk down halls and it takes you back to school. It reminds me of my school, with the terrazzo floors and the lockers and the cinder block walls. It has that school smell, mixed with the hops and barley. It pays such wonderful homage to what was there and uses it in such a spectacularly unique way. I go into the speakeasy and I’m waiting for the school monitors to come out.
A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard:
There again you have a really unique space – and what do you do with it? They were able to divide it into several different businesses to make it more dynamic. They have an old train car in the courtyard, so there again you can still see those pieces of history in a new and interesting way. I’m a history nerd and looking at the old train car and timbers and brick, it makes me wonder what the building has been historically. And what happens when people visit and you nudge them, everywhere they look they see the history, too.
Pizzelle’s at Lowe Mill:
Pizzelle’s is one of the best examples of the successes of Lowe Mill. It’s in the Railroad Building next to the main mill buildings. You have this huge mill with infinite ways to use the spaces, and you have these individual businesses that are thinking of unique ways to highlight their artwork, their craft, whatever they’re working on. It just provides a really neat feeling. You go in there, it feels substantial. It’s been there for 100 years. It’s going to be there 100 years and it’s added the new blood of those artists who have breathed new life into it. Plus, how do you not like a business that makes chocolate?
City Council Honorees
Council President Jennie Robinson
Council Member Bill Kling
Council Member Devyn Keith
Council Member Mark Russell
Council Member Will Culver