Building gets a major facelift

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer September 02, 2013 09:48 am

Janet Pulsifer shows how the windows of the Enterprise Mercantile and Milling Building on Main Street were restored per national and state historic preservation  guidelines. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Janet Pulsifer shows how the windows of the Enterprise Mercantile and Milling Building on Main Street were restored per national and state historic preservation guidelines. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

ENTERPRISE — Historic structures around the Wallowa County community of Enterprise have been getting facelifts the last three summers, including the city’s largest, Enterprise Mercantile and Milling on Main Street, commonly called the EMM Building.

The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission secured funding and has doled it out to qualified applicants through its Exterior Rehabilitation Matching Grant program. There’s evidence all over downtown of new coats of paint and restored windows in nine of its historic buildings.

This summer was the third phase for the EMM Building’s facade improvement. Manager Janet Pulsifer said two years ago the exterior was painted and the fascia on the edge of the roof replaced.

Last summer, after registering the building on the state and national historic registers, contractors began restoring the windows in compliance with regulations. The soft gray and dark red colors they chose were submitted and approved before the ground floor was painted.

“Once a building is put on the registry there are guidelines to follow,” Pulsifer said. “Because we are interested in historic preservation, we couldn’t replace them with plastic or fiberglass.”

Last year, the second floor’s south facing windows were removed, scraped and repaired. The contractors used epoxy to fill in the sills under all the windows, said co-owner Ralph Swinehart, making them more airtight, as well.

This year Wade Phillips, the window restorer from Portland had a more complicated task restoring the third story windows, said Pulsifer. 

“They had to be stripped completely so we asked Stauffers Refinishing to help,” she said.

Swinehart said the second floor windows were easily scraped and sanded, but since the Stauffers have a dip tank and the third story windows were double-framed, the entire window frames were removed and chemically stripped.

Pulsifer said it worked so well that when they restore the windows on the east side of the building the Stauffers will be hired again.

Another small facade project Pulsifer and Swinehart decided to do was to remove flagstone from around the doctor’s office that was attached on top of the city’s signature Bowlby stone.

Swinehart, Syd Tate and Rick Michaelson bought the building five years ago from the Bowlby Group, which tried to turn the building into condominiums and a performing arts center, but that was at the beginning of the recession and the timing didn’t work. Since taking over, the building has had nearly 100-percent occupancy with 24 apartments and six commercial spaces, Pulsifer said.

“There are few apartment buildings in Enterprise for the ‘work force.’ We have several professional, long-time renters,” Pulsifer said.

The first project taken on by the current owners was fixing the roof. Swinehart said Casper Roofing claimed they removed 90 tons of roofing material. 

“Each time it was fixed, a new layer was added,” Swinehart said.

Today’s roofing technique is to remove all of the old material and replace it with a membrane. The EMM Building has had nary a leak since.

Removing all of that weight did have an interesting side effect, however. The building shifted and some of the locks and doors had to be reset, Pulsifer said.

Touring the building, Pulsifer and Swinehart showed off what they were told might be the oldest elevator in the state. 

“An elevator maintenance contractor saw it and said he’d never seen one that old,” Swinehart said. Formerly encased, they decided to remove the walls and surround it with fencing to show it off. It is no longer in operation, but a true museum piece.

The building has a another elevator as well, which is fully operational, and may have been installed some time in the 1950s, Swinehart said.

The EMM Building will have its east windows restored next year and when all of the exterior is finished, the old letters will be replaced. 

“The final project,” Pulsifer said.

Contact Katy Nesbitt at 541-786-4235 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Katy on Twitter @lgoNesbitt.