The Burdette Building

The Burdette building has been a landmark in downtown Simpsonville for a century. Built of yellow brick with classically inspired terra cotta and limestone trim, the building created a large mixed use commercial block for a growing Simpsonville. Originally conceived as a home for the Burdette Hardware store following a devastating fire on the same site, it also held a variety of other businesses crucial to the development of Simpsonville on the first floor and a shirt factory on the second. Like many downtowns across the state the essentials sorts of shops gradually moved out and by the early 21st century the building housed a large antique store and a few small shops at street level while the upstairs had remained vacant for decades.

 

The Burdette Building was added to the National Register in 2003 but struggled to find a comprehensive vision well into the 2000's in part because of its large size and complex challenges for access, code compliance, and use. That changed in early 2019 when a new ownership group began planning a comprehensive rehabilitation of the building in order to create a vibrant mixed use gathering space for the community. The building is full of juxtaposition, the building's classically inspired original core is flanked by austere midcentury storefront additions. The original main facade facing Main and Curtis Streets is the most elaborate in Simpsonville while the rear facade has a restrained industrial character. On the interior, the main floor is high style and has smooth plaster walls and ornamental tin ceilings, while the upper floor has an industrial character with painted brick walls and exposed truss ceilings. Balancing these two opposing characters was a priority throughout the rehabilitation's planning and execution.

 

Over the years the Burdette building had suffered from differed or inappropriate maintenance. Elements of the storefront had been insensitively altered, changes to the sidewalk grade had resulted in rising damp issues which in turn deteriorated the mortar joints on the first floor and degraded interior plaster. While the building was fortunate to have its original windows, they had gone unmaintained for years with loose and broken panes in nearly every sash. On the interior the metal ceilings were marred by earlier renovations where the most direct route for running pipes and wires had taken priority over maintaining the integrity of the metalwork.

In addition to addressing all these many issues and more, the design team also focused on maximizing the building's space efficiently in order to make it financially viable. This meant that the large commercial spaces were sensitively subdivided to create both street and rear facing units. The rear facade was modified to allow more interaction with a new common gathering space created in the rear of the building for future tenants and patrons to enjoy which include outdoor seating, a performance venue and ADA access. A new common area was also created on the interior to allow for shared restroom facilities, a secondary egress stair and an elevator to service both floors.

In order to minimize the impact of the rehabilitation on the building's historic character the exterior mortar was carefully matched, and pressed tin ceiling tiles were sourced to match the original patterns. The interior plaster was repaired, and the wood floors patched with custom milled flooring in order to blend with the existing. The original windows and the skylights were also refurbished with great care being taken to retain all the original glass panes. Finally, the terra cotta trim was cleaned and the exterior wood trim repainted in a historic green tone, meanwhile new striped awnings were installed to provide a more period appropriate look the exterior.

The building already had three tenants moved in and operating in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic but the building was finally completed in December of 2020. The response in Simpsonville has been overwhelmingly positive with patrons flocking to the outdoor common area on weekend evenings to enjoy a meal from the barbeque tenant or listen to music provided by the coffee shop. In the coming months it is likely that the remaining tenant spaces will be rented and the Burdette Building will serve as a landmark for the Simpsonville for many years to come.