1649 Main Street

One of the oldest surviving buildings in Columbia's Main Street Commercial Historic District, 1649 Main served alternately as Hendrix grocery and dry goods store, Ruff Hardware Store, and Hennessey's restaurant over the course of its long history. Unfortunately, the building had fallen into deep disrepair after many years of vacancy and needed extensive rehabilitation work when Main & Blanding LLC purchased the building in 2015. The new owner saw great potential in the building's location and character and set out to adapt the building for new use while carefully preserving its historic elements.

 

Rehabilitation faced significant challenges from the outset. Late 20th century additions and alterations had obscured the building's historic storefront system along Main Street, added a mezzanine and drop ceilings that masked pressed tin ceilings and wood trusses, and laid carpeting over the original hardwood floors. Water damage to the roof structure threatened plans for a new rooftop bar. Potential tenants viewed the building's cavernous and dark basement space as unleasable.

 

The project team looked to historic photographs and descriptions to inform design for its adaptive reuse. Historic newspaper photographs illustrated the building's mid-20th century fac;ade -the building's rehabilitation restored its historic storefront system to match 1930s and 1940s images taken from Main Street. Rehabilitation also removed the modern carpeting that obscured original hardwood floors. The original hard wood floors were restored in both the first and second levels. The concrete floor in the basement was stained and sealed to preserve the basement's historic floor materials but minimize dust. Removal of drop ceilings and the late 20th century mezzanine exposed the building's historic trusses and pressed tin ceilings. Site work included removing sections of the sidewalk on Blanding Street to restore the property's historic grade and provide daylight to the basement level, rendering this space useful to new tenants. These early rehabilitation tactics attracted the attention of local business owners charmed by the building's reinvigorated character and eager to capitalize on its location in Columbia's Main Street district.

 

Chef-driven local restaurant Hendrix was the first of the buildings new tenants following the rehabilitation of its shell. Upfit of the second level and rooftop for Hendrix was completed in late 2018. Interior brickwork, ductwork, hardwood floors, and heavy timber trusses remain exposed, recalling the building's long history as a retail store and the grocer from which the restaurant takes its name. Modern suspended staircases with timber treads original to the building provide access between floors without hindering open floor plans, maximizing the building's narrow footprint to accommodate as much seating as possible. Preservation of the building's historic windows allows natural daylight to flood the building's interior and provides an unparalleled picture window view to Main Street below.

 

Additional truss framing was constructed below the original roof decking to provide structural support for the new rooftop paver system, which effectively stacks the new bar above the existing roof. This enables the bar to hold large numbers of people while preserving the building's historic structure. Positioning the suspended stair to the rooftop along the building's south wall ensured that the building's historic roofline was visually maintained from street level. To this same end, cable railings along the roof's edge provide security while preserving historic sightlines. Large modern windows in the staircase enclosure provide rooftop guests visibility south along Main Street, affording the staircase shelter in case of inclement weather and bar patrons unobstructed views of the city skyline.

 

Beloved Columbia dance club The Woody became 1649 Main Street's second post­ rehabilitation tenant in late 2019; upfit of the ground level and basement for The Woody was completed in early 2020. An open floor plan on the ground level provides a spacious dance floor, with granite-topped bars and cozy seating arranged along two walls. High windows on the north wall and the glass storefront along Main Street bring light inside, highlighting the preserved high, pressed tin ceilings. Suspending the DJ booth over the building's main entry makes creative use of the building's high ceiling height and maintains visibility through the restored storefront.

Awards at both the local and state level recognize the project's impact on the community. Local and state chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Greater Columbia and AIA South Carolina) recognized the project's commitment to historic preservation and innovative preservation practices with Citation Awards for Adaptive Reuse/Historic Preservation in November and December of 2020. AIA Columbia's Citation Award for Adaptive Reuse recognizes thoughtful interventions or restorations that create a synergy between old and new construction. Members of the awards selection committee particularly noted how well design for the building's reuse incorporated multiple layers to maximize the narrow footprint, resulting in clever articulation of the narrow floorplate integrated vertically. They also noted how well the building's reuse celebrated its context. AIA South Carolina's Award for Adaptive Reuse/Historic Preservation recognizes thoughtful interventions or restorations that create a synergy between old and new construction. The awards selection committee particularly praised the selective removal of the sidewalk along Blanding Street, which bathes the subgrade courtyard in daylight. These awards uphold rehabilitation of 1649 Main Street as an example of outstanding adaptive reuse not only in Columbia but in South Carolina more broadly.

 

Rehabilitation of 1649 Main Street has had an important economic impact on the local community as well. The building's new tenants -Hendrix and The Woody -won The Columbia Chamber's Golden Nail Award in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The Golden Nail Award is given annually to businesses and property owners which exhibit exemplary contributions to the physical character of the greater Midlands area through cosmetic or commercial means during the previous year. This includes restoring a facade, historical buildings or repurposing blighted spaces. The tenants of 1649 Main Street received this award because their respective building upfits continued the revitalization of Main Street northward, expanding one of Columbia's primary business and arts and entertainment districts while preserving an important vestige of the city's architectural and economic history.