Brick by brick: Facade reverts to original lookThe scaffolding attached to the building at 100 S. Main St. in River Falls signifies major work happening to the historic structure — essentially a facelift that will leave it looking fresher and newer, yet more like it did when it was built more than 135 years ago.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The scaffolding attached to the building at 100 S. Main St. in River Falls signifies major work happening to the historic structure — essentially a facelift that will leave it looking fresher and newer, yet more like it did when it was built more than 135 years ago.
Local resident James Freeman owns the two-story brick-and-stone building. Downstairs sits Sunrise Tanning and Tuxedo — open for business during the façade improvements — and upstairs are two residential apartments.
Freeman has owned the building since 1992. He said once the work is finished, the building will resemble what looked like when originally built.
He’s not sure of the different “looks” it has had throughout its 100 years, but it’s had a white finish since he’s owned it.
“All that whole upper floor was covered with stucco,” Freeman said.
He said the skilled tradesman will remove all the stucco, then tuck-point the red brick sitting underneath.
Freeman describes that process as taking out the old mortar between the bricks and putting in new mortar.
The process also involves replacing bricks or parts of bricks that have crumbled or deteriorated.
Freeman said riday that the contractors had started “about a week ago” and he expects the work to take a month.
Another aspect is that he’s replacing the three, old, rectangular glass windows on the building with ones that resemble the original, arch-topped windows.
Freeman also owns the building at 126 S. Main St. that houses the Whole Earth Grocery business.
He’s made some improvements to that building as well, including installing solar panels that he says are producing electricity beyond expectation.
He said since he’s owned both buildings, he’s been working on returning them to their original look.
He appreciates the program through the downtown Business Improvement District, to which downtown businesses — on Main and Second Street — pay a special tax.
Funds from the taxes are used to make grants to downtown business owners to make certain kinds of improvements — mostly to the building façade.
In his case, Freeman says the grant program pays for about 35% of the cost of the project, which involves improvements only to the Main Street side of his building.
“We have a pretty good downtown and he wants to keep it that way,” Freeman said.
Freeman’s building bears a plaque that tells a bit of its history.
River Falls’ Historic Preservation Commission, as well as a past Leadership River Falls class, help with the ongoing effort to research the history of several downtown buildings then affix the descriptive plaques.
Each one tells a story about its respective building. The “ApRoberts” building plaque says:
Gwilym ApRoberts bought the land in 1873 for $3,100 and built a two-story wooden building that burnt down in 1876. He rebuilt, resulting in the current stone-and-brick structure, and opened a general store.
The building has held many businesses and changed ownership a few times.
--1876-1937, General Store
--1937-1967, Red Owl Grocery
--1968-1974, Kozy Korner Gift Shop
--1974-1997, Friendly Valley Draperies and Furniture
--1997-present, Sunrise Tanning and Tuxedo
The building also housed in recent history — between 1982 and 1997 — Kahut’s TV & Audio, LMK Business Systems Office Supplies and Nature’s Expressions.
Freeman bought the building from Ruby McLaughlin, who with her husband J. Bernard, bought the building from the ApRoberts’ children in 1945.