PHOENIX RISING

May 27, 2003 11:00 pm
Major upgrade:Phoenix Building owner David Williams has put the main entrance at an angle on the corner of the building. He said this is where it was in the 1930s about the time the building contained a pool hall just off that entrance. ().
Major upgrade:Phoenix Building owner David Williams has put the main entrance at an angle on the corner of the building. He said this is where it was in the 1930s about the time the building contained a pool hall just off that entrance. ().

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

It would be hard to miss the renovations that have been going on for several weeks on Adams Avenue on the building long known as the Phoenix Building.

Once again it is rising from the ashes — if not from two long-ago fires, from neglect over the past 25 years.

For starters, the brick being used on the outside of the first floor— replacing a Romanesque-looking fake marble faade added in about 1960 — is definitely distinctive and sets it off from other structures along the street.

"We used brick torn down from the old Union Motors building on Jefferson Avenue," said David Williams, who bought the building at 1201-7 Adams Ave. in April 2001. It essentially is the third structure on the site. An 1886 fire destroyed the first one. A second one burned about 1891 and was rebuilt the next year, said local historian Jack Evans.

Williams has been doing extensive rehabilitation since buying the building. He anticipates moving his financial consulting business, Compass Financial Advisors Inc., into the renovated section of the ground floor of the two-story structure.

"Most of the materials we used were bought locally," Williams said.

He is aiming for an occupancy date of "sometime in June, assuming there are no further surprises." Later, he will probably hold an open house so area residents can tour the historic building and view the changes.

He said the motor company building from which he got the brick was built in about 1880 and the brick was painted yellow, which accounts for the present tint in some of the brick.

"The rest of the exterior brick comes from the old school administrative building, built about 1920 and torn down in the late 1980s," he said. That building stood at Fourth Street and M Avenue.

Williams credits Rick Muilenburg with "doing an awesome job with all the brick work."

Rod Muilenburg, Rick's brother, helped and also did the painting above the bricks along the exterior of the second story, which has apartments. A facing which appears to be the exterior of a third level is just that — a facing. Previous owners have never extended the building upwards for a third story. The apartments probably were added in the 1930s.

Williams' long-term plans are to cover the top two sections with a surface similar in texture to that on the nearby Pioneer Bank building.

"Workers can mold the material and do some nice things for an even more historical look," he said.

There are eight huge brick columns, exposed on the inside of the building as well as on the outside, each supported by two large steel posts inside each column.

Inside the refurbished section of the building is a spacious front office. The office will feature four posts which appear to be holding up a large light box on the ceiling that provides light for the main room. In reality, the posts are just for looks. The lighting system is firmly attached to the ceiling.

Off the main room, the doorways are arched for an elegant look. There is a large office for Williams, a good-sized conference room, and other smaller rooms. The main room is cream colored, the offices and conference room are green.

Williams has put the main entrance at an angle on the corner of the building and said this is where it was in the 1930s about the time the building contained a pool hall just off that entrance, Williams said.

Refurbishing the building has been a long project, perhaps longer than Williams had expected. At one point there was a large machine inside the building, ripping up the flooring.

"Inside, we tore down the walls to the brick columns, there were no windows, no walls other than the interior brick walls. We did some excavation, some of that to meet code and some to get the floor fixed. We had to do a lot of remodeling because the structural integrity was damaged.

"On the second floor, for example, the joists were not even attached to the floor. They were just resting inside steel headers. That was due to some work done in the 1950s. If those joists had failed, there would have been a domino effect and the whole building could have collapsed. Fixing that had a lot to do with why this project has taken so long," Williams said.

The first thing he did, he said, was to have asbestos removed from the walls of what was the Top Shop, a clothing store, but said, "That did not hold up the project."

Among other work was installing a separate hot water system, remodeling a couple of apartments upstairs and putting in radiant heat in the underfloor.

The building has 22,000 square feet, 11,000 each on the first and second floors, plus more space in the basement.

Of interest during the renovation, Williams said, was his discovery that the building had the same type of foundation as is found in the underground in Pendleton, leaving him to wonder if the local building was erected using Chinese laborers, as was done in Pendleton.

Among the things remaining from the old days are the charred timbers in the basement, from one of those fires of long ago. The rest of the building has literally risen from those ashes to become one of the most elegant structures along the city's main street.