Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Former Fisher Building receives preservation award

 

April 12, 2018

File photo Contractors and the developer of the School House Lofts student apartments took special care in restoring the 280 windows and nearly 3,500 glass window panes in the buildling that once served as Cheney's high school.

Historic Preservation Commission administrative assistant Sue Beeman told commission members at its bi-monthly meeting April 5 that any letter that starts with "Congratulations!" is a good letter.

The city received such a communication from state's top historic preservation officer, Dr. Allyson Brooks, on March 21 notifying it that the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation had named School House Lofts, LLC as a recipient of the Valerie Sivinski Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation. The commission gave its "enthusiastic support" for the award nomination to the Eastern Washington University student apartments on Fourth Street at its February meeting.

School House Lofts, which opened this past August/September, was formerly known as the Fisher Building - beginning life in 1931 as Cheney High School and was subsequently the district's junior high and then administration building. The building was sold in 2016 to the Eastmark Capital Group from Seattle, who renovated the structure into student housing while also retaining as much of its historical character as possible.

Prior to its sale, the commission unanimously approved including the Fisher Building on Cheney's historic registry, helping the soon-to-be new owners attempts to secure historic preservation tax credits as well as inclusion on state and national registries.

Beeman said Eastmark "didn't take short cuts" when it came to following requirements to maintain the historical nature of the building. In some cases, such as with half of the original gym floor that was removed, the existing materials were then reused or repurposed somewhere else in the building.

In a letter supporting the nomination, Authentic Restoration Services owner Brian Westmoreland wrote that his Spokane firm was hired in spring 2017 to restore the building's exterior windows. Of the approximately 280 windows, ARS prepared, repaired and painted approximately 276, with the rest lost due to requirements of the project.

Of the nearly 3,500 panes of glass - over 25,000 square feet - repainted, Westmoreland said "only fully missing or broken sections were replaced with color-matched, single-pane glass." The steel supporting sections were also repaired, some with new hardware, but done so in order that the original elements exist and function like new.

"This was a big job, a major commitment of the owner, but essential to maintain the historical integrity," Westmoreland wrote.

In the award letter, Brooks noted the award would be presented at a special ceremony on May 15 in Olympia at the Pritchard Building on the Capitol Campus. The building itself was the former state library and was listed on the National Historic Registry in 2015.

"It gives me great satisfaction to honor your outstanding work and dedication to protect our state's irreplaceable cultural resources," Brooks wrote. "I look forward to honoring you on May 15."

Beeman encouraged as many members of the commission as possible to find a way to travel to Olympia for the ceremony. She also said the city hoped to have some representation there as well.

"This is a big deal," Beeman said. "This is statewide recognition."

The project has also been nominated for the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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