Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Woodwork Abides


Old , new and restored woodwork
can all be seen in this picture.
As we have worked on Lafayette Flats these past many months, it has been a great pleasure to have visitors drop by to share with us stories from the building's past. We were first fascinated by the stories of the Italian stone masons and their impact on Fayetteville, but soon our appreciation for the past owners of the building grew as well. From Dr. Malcolm, who had the building built to house the bank of which he was president, to the Chapmans, from whom we bought the building, each owner had their turn as caretakers of this historic building; we are honored to have our turn.

At our recent Sneak Peek event, we had a visitor who lived in the building when she was a child and she shared with us her memories of living there. She showed us which room was hers (which is now Nuttall's bedroom) and told us some interesting things about the way families lived in the building. You see, it was never reconfigured into apartments but mostly left in its original office building condition, so the people who lived there simply adapted to the space. She also told us that all of the woodwork was covered with paint when she lived there in the 50s; this was a surprise to us since the beautiful woodwork was one of the things that attracted us to the building.

Now we knew that the building had been gutted by a fire in the early 1920s, and so that meant that the woodwork wasn't the original 1904 woodwork, but we had assumed that what we saw was indeed from the Roaring Twenties. It turns out, though, that the credit for its beautiful condition is due to Mrs. Chapman, who moved there in the 1970s and took it on herself to lovingly restore the woodwork to its original condition.

A few of the rooms still had painted woodwork when we got here and we have stripped, sanded and refinished most of it. Except for a few pieces of baseboard and some wood to rebuild the damaged newel post at the bottom of the third floor stair rail, we have been able to save and reuse the old wood.

Earlier this week as I was casing out the door to Corten - using new wood that I had bought at Lowes because we had run out of suitable reclaimed wood - I was struck by the thought of how Amy and I are privileged to have become part of this building's history. I also was able to step back and consider our place in the chain of names that have been stewards of this corner of Fayetteville. It humbled me to think that this "new" piece of wood was probably much older than me, and that I was simply the worker who added it to a building that had been around for more than a century before I found it, and would most likely be around for a century after me, hopefully longer.

Yes it's true that we are the first owners to change the floor plan significantly, creating walls and doorways that divide the spaces into flats. We are the first owners to install plumbing to the front part of the building and we are the ones responsible for removing the antiquated and dangerous electrical system. We are the owners who removed the 90 year old boiler and installed new HVAC systems, and then turned the old radiators into furniture. But the reality is that the improvements that we have made are just as temporary as those that were made in the 20s; the things that we consider modern will someday be just as passe and obsolete as the things they replaced. Such is the way with the passage of time.

But the woodwork remains. What shows on the surface might not be what people saw in the 40s, 50s or 60s, but it has always been there waiting to be seen. It is my hope that some future visitor to Lafayette Flats will see the old alongside the new, perceive that there is a difference and wonder why it looks slightly different. Perhaps they will look into the history of the building and find our names, there among the others who loved this building.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Another History Lesson

Lafayette Flats' official Historian, Carl McLaughlin, has been researching the history of our building and in this entry he looks at the Bank of Fayette (for which our building was originally build to house) and one of its key employees.

The Bank of Fayette moved into the Malcolm Building (today’s Lafayette Flats) in 1906.  Joseph Tyler Grose had been the bank’s cashier since its organization in 1904 and worked from a temporary location. Grose served as cashier throughout the bank’s fifteen year stay at this location. This was a landmark stone building at the corner of Court Street and Wiseman Avenue, directly across from the Court House.

President J.T. Grose and Cashier C.C. Huffman in front of the new bank 
 In 1921 the bank moved to its newly built offices just down to the middle of the block, still across from the Court House.  This building has a white-marble exterior facade with a stone foundation. Today it serves as the home of the Town Hall for the city of Fayetteville.  It was from this location that J. T. Grose had been elected president by the “close of business June 23,1923.”

 At the beginning of the Great Depression in1931, the bank suspended business and went into receivership. In 1932 the bank was officially dissolved in court.

 J. T. Grose’s thirty year banking career centered around the Bank of Fayette.  However, this was not the first nor the last financial institution in which he played a key role. 

 In 1900 Grose held the position of vice-president in the Fayetteville National Bank.

Morris Harvey and his associates had organized this bank. Grose left this institution prior to1904.

In 1910 Grose helped with the organization of the Fayetteville Building and Loan Association.  He began as the Secretary-Treasurer, but by the “close of business on June 30,1929,” Grose had been elected president.

In 1921 Grose became the president of the National Bank of Thurmond, a position he held while retaining his positions at the Bank of Fayette and the Building and Loan Association.  Grose became president after he and his son-in-law, George C. Bullock, bought the majority of the bank stock.

In 1931 the bank at Thurmond closed, just as the Bank of Fayette, and in that year Grose was replaced as the president of the Building and Loan Association.  Mr. Grose went into retirement in 1931 and passed away a few years later in 1934. 

 J.T. Grose had come to Fayette County as a young man to teach school.  In 1887 Grose held the position of Fayette County Superintendent of Schools.  Grose’s family had many educators who all came fom Nicholas County pioneer stock. The Panther Mountain area along the Gauley River, a rural farming area, was where Grose grew to manhood.

However, it was in Fayetteville, that Grose gained business experiences, held political office, and began making his associations with those who would become key people in his career advancement. Soon Grose was playing a key role in the city’s financial development.  Grose had made a remarkable transition from a rural teacher to a businessman in the county seat of Fayette County at the beginning of a period of economic boom.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Update

A lot of work has happened this week at Lafayette Flats. Unfortunately most of it is not terribly photogenic and so you'll have to take out word for how impressive it all is.

First, rough plumbing is all done. Those of you who have followed us since the beginning understand how big of a deal that this is. It has been the single largest task and the cause of most of our headaches. It would take much more time than we have to type and much more space than this blog affords to adequately communicate how difficult it has been to adapt this old building with two new bathrooms, three new kitchens and to tie everything to a 109 year-old plumbing system. There are three main reasons it has been so hard - concrete, plaster and oak: every piece of pipe had go through all of these materials at least once as it traveled through the building. An uncountable number of saw blades and drill bits were worn out, and an equally countless number of cuts and abrasions suffered by everyone involved made this part expensive and painful. Add to that the endless number of trips up and down the 51 stair steps from the basement to the third floor, and yeah, you might say that we're elated that plumbing is done.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Porter Jarrard and Megan Houk for their amazing work in getting it all done.

Second, we have reinstalled nearly all of the beautiful old trim that we removed in the first days of construction - all of it, that is, that can be reinstalled. We are awaiting an order from Appalachian Millwork in Beckley for the new wood that we had to buy to supplement the old.

Flooring is being delivered on Saturday and the installation will begin next week. This means we have to work furiously over the next few days to get as much cleaning and painting done as possible lest we muss up our beautiful new floors after they are laid.

The stair railing to the third floor that had been so abused when it was covered by a wall many years ago is being rebuilt. We found an old piece of white oak in the attic and were able to cut enough balusters from it to replace those that were missing. We have removed, stripped and sanded the balusters that remained and they are nearly ready to be reinstalled. We still have to rebuild the old newel post at the bottom of the stairs, but we should have enough old wood to do that fairly easily.

Next week's update should have many more photos as we get more and more finish work done. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Construction Update November 11

As the Beatles once sang, it's getting better all the time.

Quinnimont (Flat 3), as reported last time, is completely done other than some trim work and flooring. That hasn't stopped Amy from proceeding with decorating work and placing some furniture, especially in the bedroom. This is good because we are making the commute to and from Charleston most days so we can burn the midnight oil on construction details each evening. It's nice to have a well-appointed place to bunk.

Nuttall (Flat 1) will be painted this week. A few pieces of trim and it will be ready to set fixtures.

Eddy (Flat 4) is getting its final electrical touches soon and will be ready to paint by the end of the week.

Corten (Flat 2) is currently serving as a construction shop and is still a real mess. Since the plumbing for Flat 4 has to come though its walls, expect this unit to be the last one to be finished.

Common Areas - The stairwells and hallways are nearly finished. The texture of the old plaster has been difficult to match. We bought every kind of paint texturing products that Lowe's had to offer, but none of it seemed quite right. This weekend we tried something new - actually something old - that finally worked: corn meal in the paint! After we found this trick we were able to match the texture and now the first floor entrance area is finally free of the last remnants of the former electrical facilities (AKA "Old Sparky").

Also in the common areas, all but one of the new fire rated doors have been installed and the old trim and transoms have been re-installed in such a way that appeases the Fire Marshal.

The West Virginia book case is in the final design stages. We're trying to re-use some of the original trim from the building but are having some trouble designing the book case so it can be built completely with the old material.

Lastly, we thought we had better take advantage of the weather and make some improvements on the building's facade. We cleaned the ugly stained pediment stone and painted the transom over the main entrance. Watch for the Lafayette Flats sign to go up there soon!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fayetteville Lowe's

As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time at Lowe's, because it is the only large home improvement store in Fayette County. Barely a day goes by that we are in Fayetteville that we don't make at least one visit. We thought we would like to use a little bit of our blog space to brag a little bit on "our" Lowe's.

First, let me say that we are very experienced in home improvement stores. Amy used to work at Home Depot and Shawn has been in the construction industry his entire adult life. We regularly visit the three Charleston area Lowe's stores and have spent a small fortune there over the years. All of this experience, however, did not prepare us for what we have found at the Fayetteville store.

The very first contact we had with anyone at the store was with Eric in contractor sales. He seemed on the phone to be very knowledgable - as you might expect from a "Pro Sales" guy - but we found him to be more than just knowledgable, he seemed to be truly interested in helping us with what proved to be a very specialized order. Later, when we had to order other things from Eric, we found this trait to be authentic. He is always busy, it seems, but never too busy to help. This, we thought, was a rare employee; the kind that we haven't encountered much in our dealings with "big box" stores. We felt fortunate to have found Eric.

And then, Eric introduced us to Jeff, the flooring guy. In Jeff we found yet another rare (for us anyway) Lowes employee who seemed to have our best interest at heart and who possessed the product knowledge that made us feel confident in his recommendations. Jeff even came over to visit us on his day off and follows us on Facebook. We thought that this store was very lucky to have two such stellar employees.

But then, as we began to get deeper into our project and began to spend more and more time at Lowe's, we found employee after employee with similar customer service skills and helpful attitudes. It was so evident and so unusual that we would remark to each other about each new person we would meet and simply marvel at their helpfulness, friendliness and product knowledge. From the paint department to the plumbing experts to the hardware guys, this store is filled with great people who seem to love working there.

We have spent lots of time talking about it and have developed many theories as to why this Lowes store seems to be so far superior to others. Amy, with her strong retail management background, credits the store manager. We haven't met him but we are very impressed with his work. Shawn doesn't have an explanation but is very pleased to be the beneficiary of whatever it is that makes this store so darn good.

So here is a shout out to our Fayetteville Lowes crew: We truly count you folks as part of our team! Thanks, and keep up the great work!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Construction Update

Bridge Day has come an gone and we are still hard at work trying to get the place ready for guests. We thought we'd give a status report to bring everyone up to speed:

  • Overall Progress - If we had to estimate, we're probably about 5 weeks behind schedule, but we're trying to resist the urge to predict another opening date until we are sure we can hit it. 
  • Quinnimont (Flat 3) is almost completely done except for floor covering and some interior trim work. 
  • If it weren't for all of the tools and old doors and frames laying in the way, Nuttall (Flat 1) could be finished with a few day's work. Right now its bedroom serves as our "bone yard" where we keep all of the old woodwork stored until we are able to reinstall everything in its new home.
  • We found that the ceiling in Eddy (Flat 4) had been victimized by many years of condensation that had eaten through the plaster's wire lathe. This meant that the ceiling had to come down completely. This added an extra couple of days, but will result in a better building. It will also allow us to insulate the attic over this room, which will make it more comfortable and energy efficient. Eddy's electrical will be finished this week and then we can button up the drywall and begin to finish out the space.
  • Flat 2 (Corten) will be the last to get finished. Its bathroom required more changes than any other room in the building and all of the plumbing for Flat 4 runs through its ceiling. The woodwork in this flat also will require a lot of TLC since it was painted over years ago.
  • The common areas (stairwells and hallways) are being painted now.
  • We still have a few windows waiting to be replaced which represents a couple of day's work, and some exterior cleaning that we'd like to get done before the weather turns completely sour.
So, as we said, we're not ready to predict an opening date just yet, but we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The post where we reluctantly admit that we're not going to be done by Bridge Day

With only 2 weeks before Bridge Day it has become obvious that we're not going to achieve our original goal of being open for guests to stay with us for the big party.

Quinnimont should be done by Bridge Day and Nuttall shouldn't be too far behind, but there is just too much to overcome to get all the details wrapped up in two weeks.

Even so, we though we would provide a construction update so everyone can see where we are right now:

Rough plumbing is finished as of two weeks ago, and HVAC was finished the week before that. These two systems are the primary reasons we fell behind on the schedule: The thick concrete floors and tough plaster made everything take longer than we could have ever anticipated. The two new bathrooms required a lot of ingenuity and brute force to rout the plumbing and took about 3 weeks longer than we expected. Installation of a new water line had to be done before we could finish the plumbing, and the water company moves at their own pace - which meant that we waited on them for 3 1/2 weeks.

Now that the major systems are all in place, the interior is starting to be finished one room at a time (you might have seen the teaser photo we posted last week of Quinnimont's bathroom). We finally found a drywall guy and once he gets going then we can start getting get rooms ready for paint soon.

Now that Quinnimont's is operational, we can finally tear out the one in Eddy (that had been up to now the only working bathroom in the building) so we can replace it with one that meets Lafayette Flats standards.

We still have four windows to replace and a good bit of trim carpentry to be done; kitchens and bathrooms to install and then floor covering can go down. Then Amy will be able to begin the part she enjoys, bringing the flats to life with the furnishings and decor that she has been designing and procuring since April.

So, as construction projects often go, we're going to run past our original completion target. At this point we're reluctant to pinpoint another, but suffice it to say that we are still working hard to get open as soon as we possibly can.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is "Construction Schedule" an Oxymoron?

It sure seems that way sometimes. There are so many details that must come together for a construction project to stay on schedule that it sometimes feel like folly to even write down a schedule with milestones and goals.

Framing stood waiting on fire doors
that were 6 weeks overdue!
As we write this, our Lafayette Flats construction schedule is both ahead of and behind schedule. Things that we had hoped to be done last month are still yet to be done, and yet somethings have inexplicably gotten done ahead of time.

The most major delays have been with utilities being connected: We had to upgrade the water service to the building and we've been waiting for weeks on the water company to schedule that work. The electric company took its sweet time to install our upgraded electrical service, but they finally got it done last week. There have also been some material delays too, like the special order fire doors that arrived on Friday - approximately 6 weeks behind schedule.

Still, a construction schedule is a necessary component of a successful project. With no schedule there is always something to distract your attention. You have to have a polar star to keep you moving in the right direction.
Installing a new 2" water line: An example of
unscheduled work that had to be added in
to ensure a quality experience for guests.
Our polar star ever since we started this project has been Bridge Day. We want very badly to be open for Bridge Day weekend so people will be able to stay at Lafayette Flats for Fayetteville's biggest party of the year. As of this writing we're still committed to it, but we really need for everything else to come together flawlessly if we're going to make it.

Our team is working hard, smart and long to meet our goal. We've encountered a bunch of snags that required creative workarounds, but thankfully we've had creative people with the necessary skills to handle it. We can't say enough good things about the skills of Porter Jarrard - who we originally recruited to do plumbing, but who quickly evolved into our master tactician and logistics coordinator. Porter's love of old buildings is being put to the test by our stone, concrete and steel fortress, but so far he's been up to the challenge.

OK, well that's enough writing - time to get back to work!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

From Beilla, Italy to Fayetteville, WV

More from Lafayette Flat official historian, Carl McLaughlin:

As mentioned in my first blog entry, Antonio Gros Janutolo was awarded the contract for the building of the "Stone Building" (Lafayette Flats) by Dr. M.M. Malcolm in August 1904. Antonio began his life in America as an immigrant Italian but became a naturalized citizen in September 1893 at the Circuit Court of Maryland. Before 1904 Antonio had already made at least two shipboard passages from Italy to America. His return trip from Beilla, Italy on March 26, 1904 to the Port of New York is the one most interesting to me.

S.S. La Touraine, the ship on which Antonio Janutolo
made his second voyage to the U.S.

He was listed on the S.S. La Touraine's Manifest of Alien Passengers for the Commissioner of Immigration as being 45 and single (first wife, Antoinette Grisoldi Janutolo died in Italy). His occupation was listed as a mason and his final destination was Kaymoor, WV. It was noted he had been in Kaymoor before from 1890 to 1904. Furthermore, he was "going home Kaymoor, Fayette to W. Virginia."

Federal Census gives us more information. In the 1900 census Antonio was listed as a boarder with the Joe and Clolibele Janutolo family of Fayetteville. He was 42 and they were 31 and 28 respectively. By the 1910 census Anthony was the head of his household. Also his children, Fioranzo and Eride had joined him from Italy. They were 20 and 15 at the time of the census and they all lived in Fayetteville.

Later, on June 25, 1910, Antonio married widow, Maria Dirchia Moro Ongaro. Maria was from Italy and her first husband, Giavachin Ongaro had been a well known stone mason from Northern Italy. He had died in Fayettteville from a dynamite blast. Before their marriage Maria had taken in boarders, one of whom was "Cleanties" Janutolo.

Cleante Gros Janutolo was Antonio's nephew. He had come to Fayette County in 1906 to learn the practical experiences of running a company from his uncle. Cleante had just graduated from an Italian Technical School trained in architecture in 1906.

In the late 1920s, Antonio, Maria and their two daughters, Alba and Ennis, left for Italy. Antonio was retuning to Biella, Italy for retirement. On January 18, 1933 Antonio would die in his beloved Italy.

However, the Janutolo family's story and influence in Fayette county would only grow stronger. More entries to come later on this subject. The next entry will describe the role Joseph Tyler Grose played in the Bank of Fayette's history. From teller to president and much more in between.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Naming Our Flats: So Much to Capture in Four Little Words

Even though we generated and received many great ideas, we have struggled with naming the flats. Old mine town names felt too lonely; local celebrity names already garner plenty of attention; and names of natural elements don’t quite capture the spirit of the Gorge. In an effort to respect the past while looking toward the future, we asked ourselves, “What makes the New River Gorge such a special place?” While the river and rocks are certainly defining characteristics, we feel that the Gorge is so much more. It’s about communities and connections; historical relevance and strength; the past and the possibilities; AND, of course, the unparalleled natural beauty of a landscape that is and always will be uniquely ours. We feel that the following four names capture this sentiment:

Second Floor-Front
The cliff and canyon walls of the New River Gorge are old and strong. The wearing and weathering of the Nuttall Sandstone has only exposed its beauty and strength, and today, it serves as a siren call to people from across the globe who are yearning for a true climbing experience. The slow and steady aging of the Gorge continues to enhance its dramatic presentation.

Second Floor-Back
If the mountains are the skeletal structure of the New River Gorge, then the bridge is heart of the circulatory system. Connecting people and communities by spanning the river and railways, the bridge is a source of transportation, celebration, and deep pride. It was built using Corten, a weathering steel that adjusts to the natural elements and stands as strong as our people.

Third Floor-Back
The water brings life and the river flows continuously, but every now and then, an eddy is formed. These eddies can be respites, but more importantly they are tools used by guides to safely navigate the river. As the water swirls and the currents pull, just as in life, we must acknowledge the experience and right ourselves for the waters ahead.

Third Floor-Front
Derived from Latin, this beautiful word means "five mountains." What a powerful, fitting name to describe the Gorge and an appropriate label for one of WV's earliest mining towns. The mountains protect and sustain us, creating a formidable front but exposing a hospitable heart.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"What is this? A Bed & Breakfast? A boutique hotel?"

We hear it all the time. Friends who maybe have caught a whiff of Lafayette Flats on our personal Facebook pages often don't grasp the concept. After running into yet another of these friends last night, we decided to write a post that explains vacation rentals in general, and how ours will work particularly:

First, the reason that we started the project was so we could have a place to stay in Fayetteville. We love it here and like to spend as much time here as possible. We're not cabin or campground people, so we found the lodging offerings rather limited. There are already a good number of vacation rental properties in the area, but most of these are large houses - great for large groups but not so much for a couple or small family. So we though that it would be great to have a small flat in town where we could leave a change of clothes and a toothbrush so we could come up any time we wanted. So flat #3 (third floor front) is ours.
Many people are familiar with beach house rental:
Lafayette Flats is the same idea except that our beach houses
are all in one historic Fayetteville building!
The other three flats are yours. You may stay in them for a couple of days, or a few weeks. They will be furnished, decorated and equipped to be your home away from home while you are climbing, rafting or kayaking, mountain biking, hiking or just enjoying the history of the area.

Many people are familiar with the concept of a Beach House Rental; Lafayette Flats is the same idea except that our beach houses are small flats in a historic building on a historic street in the coolest small town in West Virginia. We can understand the confusion, because most vacation rentals are just one house.

Fayetteville already has a great B&B - The Morris Harvey House
But Lafayette Flats is not a Bed and Breakfast either; no food is provided and no communal spaces or meals are forced on guests. And it's not a hotel; we have no maid service, no bellmen, registration desk or concierge.

Guests at Lafayette Flats can come and go as they please, sleep as late or rise as early as they like, cook their own meals in their efficiency kitchen if they so desire, and generally act just as though they are at home. There's no maid service to worry about; flats will be cleaned between stays, but there will be no daily intrusions to schedule around.

Prospective guests will be able to view availability and prices and make their reservations online. They will arrive at their leisure because they will have unique access codes with which to gain entry to the building and to their individual flat. After their stay is over, the flat will be cleaned and readied for the next guest.

That's pretty much all there is to it.

Now, about flat #3 (ours); it can be yours too. When we aren't using it, it will be for rent as well. We will have a private closet for our stuff, and so if someone wants to rent the flat we'll make it available. This makes it possible for a large group to rent the entire building. Imagine how nice it would be to travel with your extended family and having everyone under one roof, but each unit having their own living and sleeping space!

And we can think of one other use for Lafayette Flats for all you local Fayetteville folks: We hope that you will consider us when you have visitors in from out of town, perhaps during the Holidays. Think of Lafayette Flats as your guest room!

We hope this clears up the confusion.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Art Benefactors

Last month we promised an update on the local artist and art collector's offer to help us cover the walls of Lafayette Flats with original, local art, and here it is:

Mark Tobin Moore
Mark Tobin Moore and his wife Donna Whitten have become friends of the highest order to Lafayette Flats, and by extension to all of our guests and to the town of Fayetteville. They have given us an amazing array of breathtaking pieces from their extensive art collection that will soon adorn the walls of Lafayette Flats.
Mark is an art professor at the Erma Byrd Center for Higher Education on Concord University's Beckley campus. Before that he was a professor of art at West Virginia State University and the University of Charleston, and he spent 6 years as Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Art for the West Virginia State Museum. Mark is a well known artist in his own right and his work has been shown in many places including the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences in Charleston, the Huntington Museum of Art and galleries in New York City and Paris, France. Over the years he has collected pieces by many local artists who have been his students and/or colleagues.

Donna Whitten (& Sweetie)

Donna has deep roots in the New River Gorge. Her father, Tom Whitten, lived in Quinnimont and began his working life there with the C&O Railroad. After serving his country in the South Pacific he came home to Quinnimont and returned to work for the railroad. He met and married his wife, Jean, and they continued to live in Quinnimont until shortly after Donna was born. He served as the ticket agent and loaded freight and mail at the Prince Station, and later worked as a clerk for the C&O in Thurmond, Hinton, Beckley, and Raleigh. Donna grew up in the Beckley area.

Some of the pieces that Mark and Donna have given us are by well-known local artists, and some are by people whose names are not so recognizable but are of no less quality. Some are by Mark himself. There are several very apropos works that have strong connections to The New River Gorge that will resonate with Lafayette Flat visitors. One of Mark's pieces - titled "Quinnimont Sign Post" - includes an assemblage of artifacts he found when he first visited the site of that former town. This piece will hold a special place in Lafayette Flats that we will be telling you more about in another post soon.

We are absolutely blown away by Mark and Donna's generosity and look forward to proudly displaying these works in Lafayette Flats where people can enjoy them.

Thank you, Mark and Donna!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Quick Update

Wow, it's been busy at Lafayette Flats. So busy that we hadn't even realized that it's been nearly two weeks since we've posted. We have to do better! Here's a start:

Crazy construction activity has been going on. Not a lot of photogenic things to show you, but lots of work going on. Things like drilling holes for electrical and plumbing, framing up some interior partitions and nailing blocking into place all take a lot of effort but don't look too impresive in photos. But ask anyone who has been inside the building - a lot of work is happening.

Our construction schedule is aggressive and we are really leaning forward trying to keep away from those inevitable delays, but they sometimes still find us. Right now we are waiting on both the water and electric companies to come and hook up our new and improved services. Hopefully these will both be done by early next week.
Rock Star plumber Porter Jarrard
Waste plumbing is making some real progress thank to Porter Jarrard's committment to help us stay on schedule. He's been working overtime and weekends to help us meet our goal. He is a creative, smart and has a ton of experience with old buildings. We are very fortunate to have him as part of our team.

Roger Prevette continues to work on the inside electrical wiring even though he has nothing to hook it up to yet. Right now he is working on Flat #3, and once he figures out all of the nuances of running wires through the building's concrete and steel construction he will start on the others.

Next week our HVAC installer will be onsite, which means we should soon have air conditioning in case summer shows back up.

Lots of deliveries means that lots of work is happening inside!
We've made decisions on lots of interior finishes and fixtures and we look forward to showing you those in future blog posts.

We're looking forward to getting the walls and ceilings buttoned back up so the drywall finishers can do their thing. Once that's done it will be painting time. That's when the old building will start to look like something again and that is when we'll be featuring some nice photos.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 2, 2013

What a week!

This past week saw a lot of activity at Lafayette Flats.
  • Our electrician, RDP Electrical, made good headway on getting the new electrical service installed. The meter bases and all of the load centers are set and hooked up. Next will be the inspection and then we wait on the power company to hook us up.
  • Plumber and all-around go to guy, Porter Jarrard. got cooking on the new gas lines and made some headway on drain lines. We rented a heavy drill and got some holes bored for toilets and showers.
  • Oh yeah, we secured a primo tile guy to do our showers. He'll do his work in stages, the first being getting the shower Flat 3 built so we can gut the bathroom we've been using while staying there on weekends.
  • The roof replacement got underway despite the rain showers. A nice Friday helped them finish up on Saturday before the rain showers hit. We shouldn't have to worry about leaks anymore.
  • We finally got our HVAC order placed and have a delivery date for materials. This means we can get our HVAC installer scheduled and maybe have some more comfortable interior temperatures soon.
  • The basement is drying out! Just a couple of wet spots remain and it smells much better. 
Unfortunately not all of the activity was good:
  • It seems that a supplier has dropped the ball on a rather crucial long-lead time material order. It was the very first thing we ordered after we closed because we knew that its delivery time was so important.
  • The water company finally made an appearance and let us know that they won't install our upgraded water service in the same location as the old one, so we'll have to dig a trench and repave after the line is laid. Not good news. It means more money, time and inconvenience.
Ah well, that's just how it goes sometimes with construction. We'll adjust and move forward.

This week should see some real progress on plumbing and the completion of most of the framing. Hopefully a successful electrical inspection will lead to the power company scheduling our new service hook up.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Basement Treasures

We've shown a couple of pictures on Facebook of the two dumpsters worth of stuff we took out of the basement. As we write this a third dumpster is being loaded with the last of the junk. The untold story is that in addition to the forty-two cubic yards of trash we removed from the basement, there is also a LOT of scrap metal that is being recycled. And mud; lots of mud. Or maybe muck is a better word.

The muck is made from the remnants of things that someone once thought important enough to keep. There were several pieces of furniture that had long since rotted and who knows how many cardboard boxes that contained who knows what for who knows how long. All of it basically just rotted away into muck. This muck clogged drain lines, which meant that more water collected in the basement, which helped to rot more stuff. It would have been an interesting intervention opportunity for a hoarder's family - someone could have locked their hoarding relative in the basement and forced them to face the reality and the folly of collecting so much junk.

We're happy to say that that opportunity, though, has now passed. The basement is nearly empty and actually starting to dry out. We are really looking forward to the day that we can call it "a dusty old basement."

There were a few treasures that we were able to save. Here are a few photos of some of them.

These are some of the first items we recovered. The old pharmaceutical bottles will find a place in the decor of the flats, as will the funky US map and the barber shop sign. Does anyone know anything about Dave's Barber Shop?

A police cruiser spotlight and a fan for an Airstream trailer are interesting, but we can't think of a place for them in the design scheme.

Unfortunately the 20 gallon stone jar met with an untimely end when the rusty metal handle broke while it was being cleaned. 

We've written before about the old Victrola. All that is really left of it is the turntable, stylus arm and the console lid. We hope to be able to display it somehow because it really looks cool.

The mowing scythe is an item that is causing some controversy: Shawn loves it because it reminds him of his grandfather and he would love for it to hold a prominent place in the Flats. Amy, however, doesn't see the large implement that is sometimes associated with the Grim Reaper as something that will fit into her design scheme.

The 48 star US flag smells of mildew and is very tattered, but is too cool not to be used somewhere in the decor of the Flats; maybe under glass?

How funky is the stage light? It is a definite candidate for re-wiring and retrofitting with an energy efficient bulb. Look for it to be included in the finished Lafayette Flats.

OK, now this is the most bizarre find of all: A half-full 55 gallon barrel of Anhydrous Lanolin. We have no idea why it is there, but from all appearances it has been sitting in the same spot for at least 40 years.

There are still a few things that are being cleaned up. We'll post some pictures once they are.  

Monday, July 22, 2013


Carl McLaughlin, the official historian of Lafayette Flats, with
owners Shawn and Amy.
Editor's Note: Amy's dad, Carl McLaughlin, is the official historian of Lafayette Flats. While Carl has a Master's Degree in Counseling, his Bachelor's Degree is in History from West Virginia Institute of Technology. He recently retired from a career in the Juvenile Probation Department of Kanawha County. Since his retirement he has spent untold hours online and traveling to libraries and courthouses researching genealogy - not just his own but that of people he finds interesting. Since our project began, he has been looking into the history of our building and the people who were involved with its earliest days. As a long time member of the Kanawha Trail Club, Carl has led many hikes in the New River Gorge and has always been intrigued by the history of the region. His prior knowledge of the area has helped him connect some of the dots in the history of our building. This is his first in a series of blog posts about our building's history:

The earliest known photo of the Malcolm Building circa 1910
The Malcolm Building or Lafayette Flats, as we know it today, “will be erected in what promises to be the finest business block in town,” according to The Fayette Journal of August 25, 1904.

The article, which was headed “Stone Building,” explained how Dr. Michael McAlhaney Malcolm had “let the contract” for about $6,000 to house the new Bank of Fayette. Dr. Malcolm was a prominent physician and had accumulated considerable finances.

Antonio Gros Janutolo, an Italian immigrant of Kay Moor in Fayette County, accepted the contract to construct this stone building. At the time of this article, Antonio was already quarrying stone for it. The Janutolo family line, as well as many other Italian families, would play a major role in Fayetteville construction for many decades.

Before the building or the financing, the organization of the Bank of Fayette had to occur. This organization took place on July 21,1904. Capital stock was issued for $25,000 at $100 per share. The first officers were President L.W. Nuttall and Vice President Dr. M. M. Malcolm.

Joseph Tyler Grose was elected cashier. Interestingly, Grose owned 246 of the total 250 shares of capital stock for a total value of $24,600. Grose would play several key roles in the life of the bank and was its president at its closing on May 27, 1932.

More on each of these key individuals will be forthcoming. The stonemason, Antonio Gros Janutolo, will be featured next.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Exciting Art News

The most amazing thing happened; a truly extraordinary act of benevolence that will benefit many

We were approached by a friend who is an artist, an art professor and collector of local West Virginia art. He told us that he has far too much art in his collection to display in his home and he is loathe to let it collect dust in storage or in the basement of a museum where it would only be brought out every once in a while. He told us that he has been reading about Lafayette Flats and our desire to cover the walls with local, original art and that he would like to helps us accomplish that goal. He has pieces by many, many West Virginia artists that - in his words - are far too important not to be on display somewhere.

As it turns out - to our absolute astonishment - that somewhere will be Lafayette Flats.

As we write this, our benefactor is busily going through his collection and compiling pieces that he thinks will suit our needs. He has already delivered some wonderful paintings and tells us that there are many more coming soon.

Words cannot express our appeciation. We are at once humbled and exhilerated by his generosity.

Soon we will be able to share more details about this exciting development! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Floor Plan

Since so many folks have been asking us about the layout of the flats, we thought it would be good to write a little about it and provide a graphic illustration that shows the basic plan.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture of the second floor plan:

As we've written before, we wanted to preserve as much of the building's original interior walls and trim as possible. This layout requires no removal of walls. We will be adding one wall (to create the mechanical room), moving one door and eliminating one door.

The third floor is very similar to the second, however both of the third floor flats will have the benefit of a little extra space in the form of a mud room/entryway.

Don't take this plan too literally; This graphic is from our plan's first draft and it lacks detailed kitchen and bath plans and some dimensions hadn't been field verified.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An alternative narrative...

When we developed the business plan for Lafayette Flats, in and amongst all of the financial and
marketing information, we included this philosophical element:

W.Va. State Seal by Ian Bode
"West Virginians are a hospitable people who are fiercely proud of their history and culture. Lafayette Flats will communicate these traits through its business practices: Extremely hospitable and eager to provide our guests an alternative narrative about the culture of West Virginia through the art and architecture chosen for the space."

We both love our home state. We are also very aware of the negative stereotypes that often get ascribed to our state and its people. It is one of our business goals to introduce Lafayette Flats visitors to a new way to think about West Virginia. We want to surprise our guests with the real West Virginia and nothing will make us happier than if they walk away with an impression that is different from the prejudices they might have held when they arrived. Here are some of the ways we plan to do that:
  • Design - The interior design of the flats will surprise people. Each one will be different, and each one will be unique. We've struggled to come up with adjectives that describe our design schemes but nothing seems to fit. Words like "Chic," "Hip," "Eclectic," and "Funky" are in the right directions, but all of those words fail to deliver the real image of the look that the spaces will have. One thing is certain, it will not be what some people will be expecting to find in West Virginia.
  • Art - We are art lovers and while each of us have our style preferences, we both love and appreciate local, original art. We think that West Virginia has as many extraordinary artists as any place we have seen in our travels. There's no limit to the different styles, media and subjects that our local artists use, and we want to make sure that people from outside West Virginia get to experience this diversity up close and personal when staying at Lafayette Flats.
  • "The History of West Virginia" by Gary Bowling
  • Literature - Our guests will find a supply of good books in their flat that will feature the true spirit of West Virginia. Some will be novels set in the state or written by West Virginian authors. Some will be non-fiction stories that take place in the state or about subjects that concern its residents. Some might be written by people who are only passing through. The common thread will be that they tell the story of the West Virginia that we all know and love, and not the same old tired, worn out fairy tale about the place that time forgot - the Hollywood version of West Virginia.
We think that Fayetteville itself helps to illustrate this new narrative. Here is a place that through the years has attracted the attention of many people with its amazing beauty and rich supply of natural resources. But instead of repeating our state's history, where those resources are scooped up and taken away on a train, the New River Gorge has been able to remain beautifully intact and now welcomes people to come here to enjoy it.

We are happy to be a part of this welcoming.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Each and every time we walk up the stairs to the upper floors of Lafayatte Flats we are struck by the beauty of the doors and the trim that surrounds them. The beautiful old wood that has been (mostly) lovingly cared for gives off a rich warmth that you just can't duplicate with products available today. The beautiful transoms over the hallway doors and the luxurious wide and thick hardwood casings are relics of a bygone era where quality counted and buildings were built to last.

This past weekend Shawn spent a great deal of time carefully removing some of the doors. If the door frames were not made of such substantial materials this task would be far more difficult, but as it is most of them were fairly simple to remove. Getting the first piece of casing loose without marring the finish was difficult, but after they were loosened the plinths, mullions and crossheads came off easily enough. With the trim removed you could then see the that the frames had been carefully shimmed and stood perfectly square in their openings. Cut the nails with a reciprocating saw and voila, the entire frame popped neatly out.

So, why exactly are we removing these doors for which we profess such affection? They have to be moved to accommodate the Fire Marshal. You see our fire exit plan is based on the idea that if a fire were to break out in one of the flats, that the occupants of the other flats would be able to escape through the hallways and be protected from the fire within. The original doors and transoms would allow the fire to escape the confines of the flat and spread into the hallway, so we must install fire rated doors in these areas.
When we first realized that we would be required to replace these doors we were crestfallen, because as we said before, they are one of the primary aesthetic points of the building's interior. But then we developed a plan where we could preserve the transoms and trim by removing them and flipping them around, and then using LED lighting behind the transom glass to illuminate the hallway. From the hallway, it will still look like outside light is coming through the transom but on the other side of the door, the transom will be covered with fireproof material. Even though we will be losing the rich wood look of the doors themselves, we will be preserving the trim and original configuration of the doors and transoms.

Once we get one of the units installed we'll post some photos to better illustrate the process and the finished product.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Basement Flotsam"

The Beckley Register-Herald ran a nice story about Lafayette Flats in Sunday's paper (read it online here). In the article, reporter C.V. Moore perfectly captured this week's major task in one phrase: "Clearing out decades of basement flotsam."

On Monday, it took five people all day to remove most of the flotsam to a giant dumpster parked in front of the building. It's hard to believe that a 30' x 60' basement could hold enough junk to fill up a 30 cubic yard dumpster, but it did - and there will be a second dumpster soon to finish it off. For now, though, we have cleared enough space for the plumbers to work - which is our immediate concern.

When we bought the building we knew that the basement had a water problem because of the ever-present 1-2 inches of water and muck. But since it was so jam-packed with stuff, we couldn't be certain where the water was incurring and whether the drain system was working or not. With most of the stuff removed now, we are happy to report that the drain system is working well and we feel certain that we'll have a nice dry basement soon where Lafayette Flats guests can safely and securely store their bikes, paddle boards and small kayaks  during their stay.

Many people have asked what we found in the basement and if there were any treasures hidden there. There were a few treasures, but sadly most of the valuable and historic items had long since rotted past the point of salvage. The most heartbreaking example was a console Victrola record player that would have been a stunning addition to one of the flats had its wooden cabinet not been almost completely destroyed by rot.

Most of what was in the basement, though, had no value and frankly made us wonder why anyone ever kept it; like the dozens of small scrap pieces of carpet tied up into small rolls. There were hundreds of small boxes filled with of pipe fittings, nails, screws, switches and other hardware items. Bags and bags of petrified cement products, partial bags of sand and decorative stone, buckets of asphalt roofing tar and lots and lots of metal pipe scraps. Several large upholstered furniture items had turned into piles of rotted wood and fabric; some of them so far gone that they had to shoveled into trash cans to be carried out to the dumpster.

We did salvage a few cool items that we hope to use in the decor upstairs. More about those another time.

We're glad this part of the project is mostly behind us. We're also extremely thankful to Porter and Megan who came to our aid when our temporary labor agency dropped the ball. We would not have gotten this monumental task done without these two extraordinarily hardworking and capable people. "Thank you" is not enough; if you know these two, give them a hug for us the next time you see them.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Steel, Concrete and Plaster

Our first weekend working on the building that will soon become Lafayette Flats was spent poking and prodding to discover what lies beneath the beautifully preserved interior walls, and to discover the spaces into which the new plumbing, electrical and HVAC facilities will have to be fit. Not many surprises yet, except that we continue to be surprised by how incredibly well this building was built.

Now our construction plans call for saving all of the original interior walls and ceilings. We don't take lightly the idea that we are merely stewards of this historic building and we want to preserve as much of it as possible for future stewards who, like us, love the idea of preserving the building's past while using it for modern purposes. We are adding only four small partitions and moving a couple of doors to satisfy the Fire Marshal's requirements, but other than that, the building is going to stay as it has been since it was rebuilt after it was gutted by fire in 1920s. But as we wrote before, we do have to poke some holes and open up some ceilings here and there just to make the building safe and comfortable; we are trying to make these openings in the most inconspicuous places possible.

When we cut away a section of the 2nd floor ceiling (that will be inside the small mechanical room that we are adding) we found an amazing story that was told by the structural members that haven't seen the light of day for more that 80 years. We always knew the building was solid, but until today we really didn't appreciate why. It appears that the owners who rebuilt after the fire did so in such a way as to insure it would never, ever burn again. We knew that the Wiseman Avenue side of the building had been surgically opened and that steel beams has been inserted into these openings, but today we got to see and touch one of these beams - a behemoth 18" I-Beam, thirty feet long resting on solid stone exterior walls. Each of these beams is stabilized by smaller 6" beams fit perpendicularly between the large beams. 12" steel bar joists, supported by the large main beams, have a wire lathe wired on both top and bottom of the joists: the top to support the 4" thick concrete floors and the bottom to support plaster ceilings. The plaster itself is over 1" thick and unbelievably hard: Removing a 3' x 2' section of this ceiling ruined five reciprocating saw blades. We're really glad now that we decided not to remove walls!

We've written before about the appreciation we feel toward the master stone mason who built the beautiful exterior façade. After this weekend, we have a new appreciation for the steelworkers who meticulously rebuilt the interior skeleton that gives support to the concrete and plaster that defines the spaces that will soon be a safe and secure home away from home for us and our guests. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Let's Get It Started!

We got our building permit so now it's time to get the party started!

This week we hope to sign up our first subcontractors and get some of the long lead time material ordered. Once we have some starting date commitments from subcontractors then we'll be able to concentrate on some of the "sweat equity" jobs that we'll be doing to get ready for the subs; things like dismantling some zealously installed shelving units and uncovering some long forgotten interior trim details.

Shawn is particularly looking forward to working on the windows. There are five windows on the upper floors that have to be replaced (to provide some uniformity and to ensure emergency escape access) and the first floor windows on the Wiseman Avenue side of the building need to be uncovered and restored to their original configuration (well, almost original - since the sidewalk that used to be there is now part of the street, the original door cannot be restored). We'd love to be able to restore the entire façade of the building to the way it looked 100 years ago, but we're not able to do that right now. Maybe in the future though...

We've come up with what we think is a great idea to save the beautiful interior hallway door trim and transoms. Since the Fire Marshal is requiring that these openings have fire rated doors and frames, we were afraid we were going to lose this important interior detail. We'll share that plan in another blog post after we're sure we can accomplish it satisfactorily.

The one daunting task ahead of us is cleaning out the basement. We're not sure for how long, but for many, many years now it has been used as a catch-all for who knows how many tenants of the building to store whatever they thought they might want to keep for someday. It is now just jam-packed with piles and piles of who-knows-what that have to come out to make room for plumbers and electricians to do their work. It's going to be interesting to see what we find down there. Anyone know how to get in touch with American Pickers?

Lots of hard work ahead, but really, this is so much better than the waiting game we've been plaing for the past two months. So as we said before, let's get it started.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The waiting ends.

It seems like a lot longer, but two months and eight days after we made an offer on the building, it is finally ours. We closed this morning and after treating our lawyer to a "thank you" lunch at Chetty's, we spent the rest of the day measuring and having our first opportunity to get close up looks at some of the nooks and crannies that we will no doubt become very familiar with over the next few months. We'll begin ordering materials soon and have already started talking to the subcontractors who will be doing the major work.

We also had a chance to spend a little time meeting a few more great local Fayetteville folks. We love the warm reception we've been getting and it's encouraging to hear that so many people are aware of our project. It's doubly special when we meet people who have been following Lafayette Flats on Facebook and/or this blog!

We'll be around on the weekends for the next several weeks. Feel free to stop by and say hello!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

West Virginia Day

Shawn -

When I was in third grade I found out that my cousins in Ohio didn't celebrate West Virginia Day.

It seems silly now, but when I was a kid West Virginia Day was a big deal in my community. People were off work and there were special things that happened around town. The radio station would play "My West Virginia Hills" and people would sing along. A nine year old kid thinks the whole world is just like the part of the world immediately around him, so I thought West Virginia Day was something that people all over the country celebrated. It never seemed strange to me that we didn't celebrate Ohio Day, because I'd been to Ohio and it was nothing special to my eyes. I had been taught my whole life that West Virginia was indeed something special and so I thought it was logical that the whole world would pause on June 20th and observe the momentous occasion of its founding.

"We're the most northern southern state," my mother told me, "and the most southern northern state; the most eastern western state and the most western eastern state." Surely that alone was a designation that was worthy of a national holiday, I thought.

And my eyes could see the beauty that was all around me, and in my travels to other states I had never seen anything as wonderful as Cranberry Glades, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, Summersville Lake or a dozen other places that I had seen as a young child. I was certain that the state we lived in was a blessed gift to the world and it was worthy to be celebrated.

It was only after I became a young adult that I began to realize that West Virginia was not universally loved and appreciated. At some point I began to realize that people from other places mistook our unique way of speaking for ignorance. They mistook our simple lifestyle for abject poverty. They mistook our preference for staying in West Virginia to find a way to make a living for lack of ambition. And with all of these mistaken presumptions came a negative view of our people and by association, our state.

But I know better, and so do most West Virginians. While some of our own people buy into this fatalistic self-view, I believe that many more of us are quietly counting our blessings that come with living in a place so richly blessed with beautiful natural resources and wonderful people. We grouse about our politicians like people do in every state in the union, and we wax nostalgically for the good old days like people do everywhere. But at the end of the day there is no place we'd rather live and that is why we stay.

If people around this country were allowed to see the real West Virginia, I'd bet they all really would celebrate this day.

Happy 150th, my beloved homeland.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One more week.

Our closing is set for next Friday. Most of the difficult details are tied down, some tighter than others, but it seems manageable. Once we close, the work will turn from mental to physical, but we're ready for it.

Meanwhile, Amy's dad, Carl, is fast becoming the official historian of Lafayette Flats. One of the neat things he dug up was this newspaper article from 1904. Among other things, the article says that the building was going to be finished by October 1 of that year. Another article he found - from October - said that the building was still under construction and was expected to be completed by year's end. It doesn't say what the delay was, and he hasn't yet found an article that says when indeed the building was finished, but it seems it should have been around the end of 1904 or early 1905 (We're really hoping that history doesn't repeat itself; we also have a planned completion date in October!).

Now the historic register claims that the building was built in 1906, and it mentions Cinto Peraldo as the person who built it. The newspaper article says that Antonio Janutolo was the builder and clearly documents that construction was begun in 1904. We're hoping Carl can find out the reason for these discrepancies.

There are lots more interesting things that Carl has uncovered about the building, the bank and the people who ran the banks, but we'll let him tell you about that another time. We've asked him to do some guest blogging for us, so expect to see some history lessons from him to show up here soon.

If you have any history tidbits about our building we'd love to hear them. You can leave them as comments on this blog or email them to us at 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Two weeks until we close. The waiting is driving us crazy.

Amy has channeled her nervous energy into making lists. Amy loves her lists (she claims that she dreams in lists) and she has a list for everything. Lists of things that we need to do. Lists of people we need to contact. Lists of items we need to purchase. She even has a list of all of the lists that she has made. No joke.

Some future Lafayette Flats décor items residing in our basement
One of her lists has been slowly but surely turning into an ever-growing collection of décor items and housewares that is taking over our basement and spare bedroom. She has a detailed mental picture of how she wants each space in Lafayette Flats to look and whenever she finds a new piece of the puzzle she buys it and crosses it off the list. Shawn can only stand by and watch, because the visual part of this list resides mostly inside of Amy's head.

Shawn has lists too. One of them is a list of returned phone calls we're waiting on. This list is very long, because people don't seem to want to call us back.

Now we know that part of the reason people aren't calling us back is skepticism. Since we're committed to using local contractors as much as possible for the work at Lafayette Flats, it means that we're having to introduce ourselves to lots of new people and convince these folks that we're for real; we'd probably feel the same way if we were them. It will take some time for them to realize we're serious and then I am sure they will start calling back. At least I hope so.

So if you are reading this and are one of those people we have called, please call us back.

Also, we are still looking for some local sub-contractors in just about every trade, so if you are one or if you have any recommendations on people we should use, please email us at

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interior Design

Hi, Amy here - the other half of team Lafayette Flats.

It's my turn to write a blog post, but I hate writing. Maybe it's because I grew up the daughter of grammar teacher, or maybe it's an inferiority complex that has developed from living and working with Shawn. I don't much care to analyze it, just prefer not to do it. So, I'll show you pictures instead!

Check out this Pinterest board of our home in Charleston. The Flats will have a similar look and feel. It's a little quirky, we know, and we're o.k. with that. Enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013


We've not mentioned it before, but we do have day jobs that we are very passionate about and plan to keep. Lafayette Flats is an extra-curricular activity for us. Thus far we've been able to do most of the planning work in the evenings, on lunch hours and on weekends, but once we close on the building (hopefully in about 3 weeks) we'll have to be in Fayetteville a lot. With this in mind, we've banked as much vacation time as possible with our jobs and we will be staying in Fayetteville on weekends as soon as we can get one of the flats ready to occupy.

The current electric situation.
The first thing that has to happen to the building before we can start staying there regularly is to install a new electrical service. In 1906, electricity was a newfangled idea that almost certainly was considered a luxury even for a bank - and so we're not certain if the original building plan included any electrical facilities. We know that when the interior of the building was rebuilt after a fire in the 1920s, electricity was added but it was no doubt minimal and very light duty - providing only enough juice to power a few light bulbs. Unfortunately, as the building's electrical needs increased, the 1920's system was never replaced; new circuits were just added on from time to time. The result is a pretty sketchy network of fuse boxes and breaker panels that are in bad need of replacement. To support four modernly equipped flats and to supply adequate power to the offices on the first floor, the whole shebang is going to have to be upgraded. From new meter bases all the way through to the outlets, Lafayette Flats will have a brand spanking new 2013 vintage electrical system.

One side benefit of replacing the electrical service is that the power company's service wires can be moved to the rear so they won't have to run awkwardly across the Court Street façade, so this new system will help us to recapture the old look of the building.

For the occupants, the benefits will be greater. Right now there are very few outlets in the building. We'll be installing a bunch of outlets in every room so there won't any shortage of places to plug in your gadgets, and some of the outlets will have a built in USB jack to make charging cell phones and iPods more convenient.

As we've written before, the old plaster walls are in pristine condition and so instead of cutting into them to run a lot of wire, we've decided to use surface mounted wire mold. This is actually the more historically accurate way to run the electric since the original construction had no wires concealed in the walls and some wire mold is already in use in the building. We'll be using the Wiremold Series 500, which has been in production since the 1920s and could very well be the exact same product that is already in place. Our 100 year old home in Charleston has much of its wiring installed this way and we feel it will be perfectly suitable for Lafayette Flats too.

Of course we'll be adding cable TV and WiFi Internet as well, but more about that in another post.

So anyway, as soon as the new electrical system is installed we can move ourselves into one of the flats and stay there on weekends and vacation days. We're looking forward to be able to burn the midnight oil - or rather, electricity - after waiting so long to get started. There will be a whole lot of labor intensive preparation that we'll be doing to get ready for the plumbers and other subcontractors, and after crouching at the starting line for so long we are more than ready to get to work.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Art Fund

"Local, original art will be a key design feature of Lafayette Flats."

This was one of our very first thoughts when we began dreaming up plans for the place. We want to have lots of locally produced art in the space because a) we both love art, and b) because we want visitors to take away a view of West Virginia that is different from the stereotypes.

When we began budgeting however, we found that our desire might not be so readily attainable - at least at first. Oh, don't worry, there will be art even if we have to borrow from our home, but we've come up with a plan for making sure that there will be a continual and plentiful supply of fresh art adorning the walls of Lafayette Flats.

We considered - briefly - using the space as a gallery of sorts, where local artists could display works that guests could purchase. We quickly came to the realization that this would be too risky and hard to manage. Developing a purchasing system would be problematic since we live an hour away and then we'd have to figure out a way to procure new pieces to replace the sold ones. And since Lafayette Flats is meant to be "a home away from home", we really weren't keen on the idea of having labels and prices on the art. All things considered, we decided that we'd rather have a "permanent collection."

A part of our business plan is to have a building maintenance fund. This reserve will be funded by designating a percentage of rental fees until it has reached a balance that will ensure that a sudden building problem can be dealt with promptly. One day, while Amy was stressing over having enough art for each flat, she had a brilliant idea: "Why not also create an 'Art Fund' that will be used exclusively for buying new art?"

So now, as an addendum to our business plan, Lafayette Flats will dedicate a portion of vacation rental income to a fund that will be used to buy local art each year. We are really excited about this plan!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Research Mission - New Orleans

Back in the winter, before we had even begun to dream about Lafayette Flats, we were suffering from a bad case of cabin fever and booked a trip to New Orleans for the Spring. It turned out that the first week of May was a questionable time for us to take a trip since we were by then right in the middle of doing all of the legwork necessary to buy our building, but airlines don't care about such matters and they certainly weren't going to refund our long-booked tickets so we decided to use the trip as a fact-finding opportnity and booked a vacation rental apartment.

We were very fortunate to find anywhere to stay because we had unknowingly booked our trip during the New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival (Jazzfest) which is second only to Mardis Gras in the number of visitors to the city. So nearly all the hotels were full and those that did still have rooms were asking a premium price for them. (Vacation Rentals by Owner) came to our rescue and we found a great little place off the beaten path. Named "The Gates" this cute apartment was located on the ground floor of the owners' home and was a very well executed vacation rental.

The décor of the apartment was very much in line with our tastes and we took away several good ideas that we very well might employ at Lafayette Flats like nice unbreakable wine glasses, reusable shopping bags, local information and guides from a local insider's perspective and a chalkboard for guests to leave messages for future guests. We also liked the Mrs. Meyer's Cleaning products and unusual but useful items that were there for our use (like yoga mats). The owners also had a few really nice reused and repurposed items like a galvanized trash can inverted and used as a nightstand.

We also found a great idea for open shelves in the bathroom were guests can organize their belongings.

No place is perfect, though, and we took away a few "don'ts" too, like a perhaps too-cozy shower stall and area rugs that were a little harsh on bare feet.

So despite the bad timing, we really enjoyed our NOLA trip and learned a lot about the vacation rental biz. We hope that it pays off for our guests.

You can see The Gates information on by clinking this link. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, we highly recommend this place.