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More doors

April 2, 2017

We are starting to gear up for our next big project, finally, the second floor! As we were sketching out the design, an opportunity came up for us to acquire some distinctive doors. These doors are not only attractive but are also the correct scale for the space. Most residential doors would look puny. We were able to get eight in a few different sizes along with their hardware from our favorite salvage guy.

Tom was talking to him about some architectural items an acquaintance wanted to find a home for, when salvage guy mentions that he has some new items from a school, would we be interested? I went to look, knowing the school and that there were some interesting doors that I had admired. These are the doors we ended up getting.

AB Green doors

Not sure what the species of wood is yet. Cherry? That’s me hiding behind the door.

From a design point of view, we appreciate finding quality items that have a history. Like the doors we got from Central Library, it is bonus that there are enough that match to make the space look less higgledy-piggledy. That is always a challenge for us. We want the space to looked designed, not like a random assemblage of found stuff. We often see interesting singular pieces but can’t picture how it will fit into the big picture. Occasionally, we are lucky to find pieces that inspire us to made the design even better.

Door hardware

Once again, sorting old door hardware

These doors have a connection to me beyond being a good fit for our project. They come from a school that my firm has worked on over many years, for two different clients. It is bittersweet to have these doors for our project, knowing that the reason we have them is because that school building is being torn down.

Doors in the shop

Here are the doors and hardware, stacked in the shop. We need to do a detailed inventory and start figuring out where they will work best in the plan.

The school was originally part of the Maplewood Richmond Heights (MRH) School District, my firm’s longest standing client. It had been used for different grade levels over the years.

AB Green

Here’s what the school looked like when it was last occupied.

We worked on the building to correct some code issues, among other things. Ultimately, we determined, as part of a district-wide master plan, that the school should divest of this building and use the funds from the sale to invest in other properties. A developer bought it with the hope of turning it into housing. The neighbors blocked the rezoning around the same time that the economy went down the drain, ending many projects like this one. The developer transferred the property to a private school. This school had been renting space from a church. They were excited to have a building that would be their own. After they acquired the property, they learned that we had knowledge and experience with the building and reached out to us to help with the needed renovations.

We did some planning to outline what they wanted to do, as well as what they would have to do to occupy the building as a modern school. We created some promotional renderings to help them to visualize how they could use the building and to help with fundraising.

Unfortunately, they vastly underestimated what it would cost to make the building usable. This was one of the primary reasons MRH chose to not keep this building. The recession compounded the problem. It became very difficult to raise funds or find a bank that would be willing to loan them the money they needed. We know all about that.

That school gave up the building and merged with another program. The building sadly sat empty for years, a victim of economic shifts and destructive vandals. Empty buildings have a hard time surviving for very long.

Fast forward to today’s better economy, the property and the church next door will become the site of a modern apartment complex. It is a good location for this type of development and the old buildings have to go. Out with the old and in with the new.

There was another piece we really hoped to get, but we were too late.

Doors and transom

This is photo from when my firm last worked in the building.

It was a large pair of doors with sidelights and a transom that was originally at the school auditorium. When we saw it, we could picture it as a room divider, between the large, open, hard to heat and cool space, and a ‘tv room’ that could function as a smaller living room that could more easily be conditioned. We’ve often talked about what we would do on those occasional times when the temperature swings to the extreme for few days. This wasn’t something we had in our plan until we saw the doors and windows. Now that we saw it, it was hard to un-see the idea. Unfortunately, other folks were ahead of us and were promised the items before we came across them. We’ll be on the lookout for something similar.

I enjoyed walking thru the building that I had worked on, one last time, but it was sad to see the cruel damage. It is painful to see a once proud building, especially one that I have a history with, being thoughtlessly mistreated.

Hallway today

What a mess.

I came into one classroom and saw one of our fundraising drawings, that we created for the private school, being re-purposed to cover a broken window. I laughed. An architect’s irony?


What might have been.

We’re happy to have the doors and I’m pleased to have a part of this building, put to good use in our BAB.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rick Peterson permalink
    April 2, 2017 8:01 pm

    Wow, the doors look great. I know that you guys will put them to good use and give them a great new home


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