The Montgomery Building

In 1923, the Montgomery Family, a prominent fixture in Spartanburg’s textile manufacturing industry, commissioned Lockwood Greene Architects to design and oversee construction for what is now known as the Montgomery Building. Located along N. Church Street in downtown Spartanburg, the ten-story building was opened for business in 1924 and was one of the first Chicago-style skyscrapers completed outside of Chicago. During its lifetime the iconic building has supported a variety of office tenants, including Lockwood Greene’s headquarters and the BMW Manufacturing Company.

Over the past two decades, the building remained vacant and slowly deteriorated. Several proposals to save the building failed to materialize, and local leaders began to fear the worst for this landmark. In 2015, a new developer and future owner, BF Spartanburg, came forward with a plan to revitalize the building that city officials praised as a “next-level” catalyst for the city. BF Spartanburg engaged McMillan Pazdan Smith to perform a feasibility study while their development team finalized plans to restore the 91-year-old high rise and create a mixed-use facility featuring retail, commercial, and residential space. With BF Spartanburg’s vision, the Montgomery Building was saved from eventual demolition and Spartanburg’s central business district saw another key building put back into use.

 

After performing the feasibility study, BF Spartanburg selected MPS to be the Architect of Record for the historic renovation. Because the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the owners took advantage of Federal and State historic tax credits to assist with financing the project. MPS worked carefully with the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to meet its criteria for preserving and rehabilitating the building.

 

Project's impact on the community and/or state
The finished product is approximately 127,000 SF that includes select boutique retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor, dedicated office space on the second and third floors, and residential apartments on the remaining floors. The economic impact on the City of Spartanburg was felt immediately with most of the space being occupied within the first year. Since its completion, new development and activity along N. Church Street has increased noticeably.

Degree of Difficulty and Obstacles Overcome
After years of neglect, the pre-cast concrete façade was delaminating to the point that it was necessary to erect scaffolding along the buildings’ perimeter to protect the street from falling debris until a solution to the problem could be determined. The original pre-cast concrete façade was highly detailed and historically significant as concrete panels used for a façade were innovative in the early part of the 20th Century. MPS first investigated whether the panels could be saved and re-used to comply with the National Park Service standards, as a study paid for by the previous owner indicated that the panels were not structurally sound and could only be replaced. MPS examined the existing structural reports and hired Bennett Preservation Engineering, a structural engineer with expertise in the preservation of historic buildings, to review the panels. BPE ultimately agreed with the original report and determined that the panels could not be salvaged. Our design team immediately began the process of gaining approval to remove the panels from the SC SHPO and the National Park Service. Following lengthy review and discussion, the NPS agreed to the removal and replacement of the original pre-cast panels, but not without first measuring and documenting the size and design of every panel so they could be reproduced in exact detail per “standard six” of the Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation. MPS teamed with the general contractor and began the tedious process of documenting every detail of the original panels so the replicas would be precise. Mock-up panels were created for the SC SHPO to review prior to putting the panels into fabrication. This process resulted in one of the only projects in the country that was allowed by the NPS to completely remove and replace the exterior façade of a historic building and still receive tax credits.

 

The original wooden windows were replaced in the 1970’s with “modern” aluminum windows. To reproduce the building’s original design, the MPS design team went through the lengthy process of replicating the original wooden windows. This was made easier by the discovery of an original window that was still intact, having been covered by construction from previous renovation inside the building. That window was used to develop details for the new windows. Unable to match the historic details with aluminum replica windows, real wood windows were fabricated, tested and installed, matching every detail of the originals.

Degree to which the activity or effort serves as an example of outstanding commitment to historic preservation and innovative preservation practices. Adhering to the NPS standards meant that all floors were required to maintain or reconstruct the original layout of the public spaces, including corridors, elevators, and stairs. As with the exterior, many of the interior details had been removed or covered over time. Using the original Lockwood Greene drawings as a guide, the MPS team painstakingly documented the original design elements that remained and carefully created construction details, so these elements could be replicated, reusing the remaining pieces and recreating those that were missing, including decorative plaster ceilings and capitals, marble floors and walls, and wood trim. Most of the original materials and details were still in place in the ground floor arcade with the exception of the plaster capitals. Fortunately, a few of the original plaster capitals that were removed in the 1960’s were found when cleaning out the building and were used to replicate the design so that all of the capitals could be reinstalled in their original locations. The 1924 design also included a 1,000-seat theater within the footprint of the building. While the exterior of the theater was renovated as part of this project, the interior renovation was excluded from the project in an effort to find just the right tenant to manage the space.

 

An additional hurdle relating to the building’s façade was the design of the ground floor entrances to the retail spaces. The building was designed with very large storefront openings along the ground floor which were all infilled during the 1980’s. The glass sizes were so large that they could not be fabricated from insulating glass, which is the current standard for new construction. In addition, none of the original storefront frames or steel window transoms remained. After months of research, steel window frames and transoms were designed that closely resembled the original design and special permission was received to use single pane glass in the openings, recreating the 1920’s look. The ten-story landmark was completely renovated on the exterior to the last detail. The interior public spaces and residential floors were restored as well leaving the business and theater spaces ready for tenant upfit. New mechanical, electrical, life safety, and fire protection systems function like a new building within the historic landmark. Above all, special attention was given to preserving the remaining historic fabric to meet NPS standards.