Preservation efforts recognized for Butler commercial, residential buildings
Upstairs apartments in the Farmers National Bank building on Butler's Main Street are occupied for the first time since the 1930s.
“The upper floors have been empty forever. But it's a good building,” said Joe Gray, whose company, Evolution Properties, was one of two winners of a preservation award from the city of Butler — given for the first time this year.
Gray and his partners, John Ankney and Jim Taylor, spent $1.4 million to renovate the bank building, which is made of Indiana limestone and was built in 1921.
The city gave another award to Brian and Toni Fell for work they did on their East Pearl Street home.
By giving the non-monetary award, the city is trying to encourage redevelopment of its Main Street and nearby residential areas.
Two awards will be given each year — one to a commercial property and another to a residential property.
“We think these awards might motivate residents and developers to renovate properties. We have really gone after the blighted property in the city for several years,” said Richard Schontz Jr., a Butler council member who sponsored the awards. Winners receive a plaque.
Like other onetime manufacturing cities, Butler's population is about half of what it once was — 15,000 today compared to 30,000 during World War II.
“Butler has many period homes. By promoting restoration of these homes and buildings, we increase the quality of life and economic viability of the city,” said Bill May, a high school teacher and local history buff who came up with the idea for the awards.
The Fell home is a classic period home.
Alexander Mitchell, a lawyer and Civil War veteran, built the brick Italianate house in 1870. The home stayed in the Mitchell family until 1953, when new owners converted it into three apartments.
“They were always nice apartments. But it can be a problem with any neighborhood when owners do not live in the building,” May said.
The Fells bought the home late last year and researched its original layout.
Since then, they have knocked out at least four walls and restored the home's original staircase, Toni Fell said. She is an illustrator, and her husband is a designer.
“This is the second home we have restored. We have pretty good imagination about how a home should look,” she said.
Fell said she and her husband prefer living in older homes.
“These houses will stay here forever. They are built much better than most homes are today,” she said.
Gray's renovation of the bank building was more complicated and costly.
“We gutted most of it and added an elevator for access to apartments in the upper floors,” he said.
Gray also connected the building to the building next door, jacked up floors and installed a sprinkler system, whose first floor houses Anderson's Common Court Restaurant.
Gray owns four other buildings in Butler. Like the Fells, he said he appreciates the recognition from the city.
“It does encourage people to do good things with properties.”
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.