Can history be recreated?
That's the idea on Main Street in Stillwater, where an architectural firm will create an exact match to a building that burned in 1951. The replica was made possible because of old photographs of the Peaslee Plumbing building, said architect Mike Hoefler of the HAF Group.
"Nobody will be the wiser," he said of the new building at 229 Main St. S. The two-story structure will fill a 24-foot space on the block that's been empty since the fire. Reclaimed bricks will be used to make the building look original, he said, and the rear entrance on Water Street will have old-style storefront windows.
"You want the building to fit within the neighborhood," Hoefler said.
Downtown buildings tend to document a city's history, said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.
"Some buildings burn or get torn down but they have left a footprint in the heritage of that community," he said. "A replacement building is just another mark on that town's timeline and will forever be a part of that generation's legacy to the community."
Construction will begin with the most-modern aspect of the project -- 55-foot steel piers that resemble corkscrews. Required by modern city codes because of soft subsoils, they'll be driven into the ground at intervals to support the building's weight.
Because of the additional cost of the piers, the Stillwater City Council recently approved $150,000 in tax increment financing for the construction. The overall building cost is estimated at $1 million.
The HAF firm will occupy offices on the second floor. The first floor, which will stand 18 inches above the street because of flood ordinances, will house a restaurant or a retail store. Hoefler said his firm hasn't yet found a tenant.
"I think it's a great project," city planner Mike Pogge said of the 4,000-square-foot building. "It does speak well of downtown Stillwater in general."
The HAF Group earlier restored a building two doors north that once housed the Majestic movie theater. An acoustic ceiling was removed and a mezzanine was added to make room for 45 Degrees, a retail store that sells clothing and gear for outdoor enthusiasts. That business opened in 2003.
The lot where Peaslee Plumbing once sat has been occupied by only two buildings in more than 100 years. Hoefler said the two-story Peaslee building was constructed in the late 1800s or early 1900s to replace a four-story building. That building, according to historical records, caught fire in 1899.
Since the fire at the second building more than 60 years ago, the narrow lot has become a walkway between Main and Water streets on a long block. It has benches and trees and has become a mini-pedestrian mall.
Many of downtown Stillwater's buildings date to the late 1800s. The new HAF building, which doesn't yet have a name, will be sandwiched between the Bronze and Marx Wine Bar businesses at Main Street's intersection with Olive Street.
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles