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Renovations a go on historic La Rose building in downtown Greensburg

Jacob Tierney
| Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, 10:42 p.m.
The former La Rose building on South Main Street in Greensburg on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.
Brian F. Henry | Trib Total Media
The former La Rose building on South Main Street in Greensburg on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.
The former La Rose building on South Main Street in Greensburg on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.
Brian F. Henry | Trib Total Media
The former La Rose building on South Main Street in Greensburg on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.

Workers are almost ready to begin renovating Greensburg's historic La Rose building on South Main Street, now that demolition of the facade revealed it is still in good shape.

Building co-owner Steven Gifford and architect Lee Calisti presented their design to the Greensburg Historic and Architectural Review Board in June, but the plans depended on the original brick beneath the glass facade being undamaged. They didn't know the state of the building for sure until the glass panels were removed, which was was done during the past month.

Gifford said the building is intact.

“There's only a couple areas that are damaged, and those are going to be easy to repair,” he said.

Gifford owns the property with his wife, Rhonda. They plan to rent the renovated first floor as retail space and turn the two upper floors into apartments. They will call the building La Rose Lofts.

Workers completed demolition on the interior, removing the heating, plumbing and electrical systems.

The facade work solved one mystery about the building's history, while raising another, Calisti said.

Before the demolition, he knew the building was built sometime between 1912-1915, but he didn't know the exact year. Workers found the answer beneath the facade, pressed in metal: the building was constructed in 1913.

They discovered something unexpected. Some of the bricks don't quite match the original, especially near the top of the building and in covering what were once second-story windows, Calisti said. This suggests renovations happened to the building that nobody knew about.

“They are newer. They could have been replaced a long time ago, but they're not original,” he said. “What was there originally? I'd love to see some original photos.”

The building was once a theater. In 1956, Alexander Cohen turned it into the La Rose department store.

Joe Cohen, Alexander's grandson, says he still has some memorabilia from the original store. The Johnstown man plans to meet with the Giffords next month to donate some of it for display in the renovated building.

“Calling it the La Rose Lofts is very touching to our family, to keep the tradition going,” Cohen said.

Work on the first-floor facade will begin soon and will be finished by winter, Steven Gifford said. Construction on the upper floors will begin in the spring; if work stays on track, it will be finished by May, he said.

Gifford is executive director of the Greensburg Community Development Corp. He has received approval from the corporation board to own the building and said he will steer possible retail renters to other properties before directing them to his own.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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