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Rejuvenating Story Street in 1946

Posted September 25, 2013 in Community Featured, Boone

In the past year, several downtown businesses and the police department have refurbished their exteriors.

These efforts are not the first efforts to give Boone’s prime business district “a fresher and newer appearance.” In 1946, the Chamber of Commerce introduced a plan to update downtown Boone’s “outmoded” public image.

A drawing shows the block between Seventh and Eighth on Story Street under the  streamlining proposal.

A drawing shows the block between Seventh and Eighth on Story Street under the streamlining proposal.

In July of 1945, the Chamber drafted a voters’ referendum to upgrade store fronts on both sides of the 700 and 800 blocks of Story Street. Boone architect Reuben S. Lantz completed the architectural drawings for the proposed renovations by January of 1946. His plans urged the “transformation of the facades” of old buildings “from street to roof,” which would create a homogeneous look throughout the downtown.

In issuing its proposal to downtown merchants, the Chamber suggested three possible renovation paths. One proposed to use existing building façades but to remove all ornamentation from the exteriors and install modern windows. Building surfaces were to be filled in, creating bases over which new veneers could be placed. Another route suggested removing old façades and replacing them with new, up-to-date surfaces. A third plan advocated the use of all-steel frame construction with attached metal insulated glass or glass blocks applied to existing façades.

“The project should be approached in a cooperative spirit on the part of the building owners, the store operators and the community as a whole” and “bring “pride of ownership and satisfaction in serving the community to owners,” the Chamber stated. In the long run, owners would have their investments “returned to them,” the Chamber asserted.

The renovation story appeared in several publications, including the Mid-West Contractor, Building Supply News, The Central Contractor and American Builder. Each published photographs, drawings and descriptions of the Boone plan. On March 2, 1946, Business Week picked up the story noting that a major problem was cash. “The chamber of commerce fully realizes that the biggest hurdle it must overcome is the reluctance of building owners to spend the necessary cash, estimated at $3,000 to $8,000 for the average two-story building, depending on the type of modernization decided on.”

Upgrades to downtown buildings varied. A few, most observable in the building on the north east corner of Eighth and Story Streets, incorporated Lantz’s designs. Other changes were less dramatic. Much of the old Victorian ornamentation which had graced downtown buildings since the 1880s when they were built was removed. There is also evidence that a number of old surfaces were covered by smoother, plainer façades that incorporated new building materials.

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