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.