Terry Loftis of J L Associates recently hosted the Pawhuska Rotary Club for a tour of the former C.R. Anthony’s store. After Ladd and Ree Drummond purchased this and an adjacent building last year, the Osage County ranching couple embarked upon an epic journey of restoring both units to their former glory.
“When you get into these historical old buildings, it’s so easy for the owner to not have any imagination.” said Loftis.
Project Manager, A.J. Hamilton added, “Ree and Nan (mother-in-law) have such good taste. This project will be done in a timeless manner so that it won’t be a level of ‘Gee, we’ll want to freshen it up.’ This remodel could be compared to timeless high-end fashion, like Chanel.”
“It is a real joy in getting to do something like this for the Drummond’s,” said Loftis. “Restoring the building back to its original condition can be a slow process, especially when striving to maintain historic integrity. We are bringing the building back to what it was originally – not what it was when everybody was used to seeing it as C.R. Anthony’s and then Bill’s Dollar Store but going back to its 1909 angled entrance. This required a massive amount of work but the end result is worth it.”
When C.R. Anthony’s purchased the Osage Mercantile Building, they eliminated the corner opening in order to acquire more floor space.
“During the process of removing Anthony’s awning and brick work, A.J.’s guys saw something back in the corner,” said Loftis. “They continued to chip at it and discovered the granite column. At that point, Ladd and Ree decided to make the entrance the focal point of the building by restoring the original angled entrance.”
Their decision was confirmed by an article Garrett Hartness found in a 1909 edition of the Pawhuska Journal Capital that said the building was nearing completion with the setting of a 10 ft. tall, 3 ft. diameter marble column, weighing approximately 5,800 lbs. The column came from a quarry in Maine at a cost of $600. Hartness is President of the Constantine Arts Council and a Director for the Osage County Historical Society.
High-density polystyrene Styrofoam was used to recreate the round at the top and bottom of the column. The same vintage plaster technique used for the Osage County Historical Museum was applied to the column.
“We hand-carved thick chunks of Styrofoam into shape before applying to the column,” said Loftis. “Then, we applied various layers of plaster. The completed version mimics the original so much that it feels like the original concrete column. If someone were to knock on it, it sounds real. We believe the column and entrance closely resemble the 1909 version.”
Loftis said both the north and angled covered entrance include salvaged metal from the C.R. Anthony awning.
The Osage Mercantile building and its north counterpart are 140 feet long. The Mercantile is approximately 60 feet wide. The north building which housed Mode O’Day in the 1990’s and later 2002 Video is approximately 44 feet wide. The Mercantile building will feature its original flooring and metal ceiling tiles.
“Each tile is being repaired and powder coated to their original glory,” noted Loftis. “Once renovations are complete, it will be a retail outlet for Ree’s cookbooks and her delightful children’s books. Many people may not be aware that her best-selling children’s books are based on ranch life through basset-hound Charlie’s eyes. I am hopeful that Ree will hold book signings in this space.”
An unsafe stairway leading to east end of the Mercantile was removed in order to accommodate an extensive electrical system which will service both buildings. The HVAC units will be concealed in a crawl space in between the two floors. All upgrades are energy efficient and will not distract from the building’s character.
An expanded stairway with a landing has been constructed on the center of the north wall of the Mercantile. Neither structure contained a passenger elevator. However, there is a fully-restored hand-pulled freight elevator that will possibly be converted to electric in order to handle Ree’s books.
Where feasible and to preserve historic integrity, plaster is being removed to expose the original brick which is being tuck-pointed and clear-sealed to prevent further deterioration and dust accumulation.
Loftis quenched rumors that the temporary walls erected outside were not for expansion onto the public sidewalk. They were a safety precaution as the thin glass on the windows created a potential hazard. Removal of these exterior walls will reveal beautifully restored entrances.
“Temporary walls will continue until two matching entrances have been completed for the west entrance and the southwest corner entrance,” said Loftis. “In addition, we are restoring the southeast entrance on Main Street. This has been covered up for the past 40-50 years.”
There are approximately 100 windows in both units. The majority of the upstairs solid-unit windows are 3.5 ft. wide by 10 ft. tall. Window sashes were modified to accept energy-efficient one-inch thermal panes. All trim was restored, many of which included details such as dentil molds.
The north side of “The Building” will house a deli, kitchen and walk-in refrigerator. Drummond ranch offices will occupy the upper level and will incorporate a number of historic references. When the north structure was attached to the original Merchandise Building, plaster covered up painted advertisements. Removing this plaster revealed early century signage, including the National Biscuit Company, forerunner of Nabisco.
Ree’s office and her support staff will be in the northeast corner. A conference room will separate her area from the front offices. The entrance to the conference room will feature a display wall for Ree’s incredible photographs.
Attention to the minutest detail is going into this project. All restrooms will feature doors and transoms with woodwork true to the era.
“This has been and continues to be a labor of love,” Loftis said. “Next week we are planning to unveil the dynamic angled entrance and the first of two west-side entrances. The corner entrance was one of three in Pawhuska in the early 1900s. The Duncan Hotel and Lennon’s Rexall Drug at the corner of Kihekah and 6th Street were the other two.”