On this anniversary of moving into the Depot I wanted to share a love story about an Architect and a Train Station. This story starts many years ago around 2009. When I first moved to Harrisonburg and opened an office downtown I used to walk around looking at buildings. There was still a lot of empty storefronts and a lot of potential. On the outer fringe of the Historic Downtown there was this one beautiful building that was looking a little rough.
It has a powerful presence even in a neglected stage of life. It was often blocked from view by building products being stored all around the structure. One this sunny day as I was walking I snapped a photo of the building as a dreamed of what it could become in a new life. I would have loved to have my office in the beautiful structure. However, at the time I was a 1 person firm with little resources to expand my office needs and certainly no resources to renovate such a structure.
A few years later in 2014 I was invited on a trip to Warroad, MN to learn more about Marvin Windows. This is a training that is offered to architects and builders to see how the window is made / performs and to meet some of the people involved in the process. We were fortunate to have a private jet fly us up and back to shorten the time the trip would take away from our work that needed to be done at home. On this flight I was able to sit with R.S. Mongers & Sons, Inc. President Jim Higgs. We discussed many things as we got to know each other. One topic that came up was this beautiful building at the end of their street and how it would make a perfect window and door showroom and professional office space for an architect. The seed was planted perhaps.
The building however was still a little rough.
Then the stars aligned and I was in need of an office move. We were out of space in our current building and it simply did not fit the narrative we were trying to tell about our business. I started making calls to find the right next office space. It turns out at the same time the Depot building owner was also getting ready to renovate his building. I called Jim Monger and we discussed a strategy to provide design services and for us to take a good portion of the second floor professional office space. The timing was perfect and we all agreed on how to best move forward on the project. Design kicked off in early 2015 and construction soon followed. Construction was painstakingly slow for me but in reality moved quickly for a building that had suffered so many years of neglect, fire, and water damage. Jim Monger was there most days and I was as well. It was a process for me of learning about the building, researching the history of this structure, and making design decisions as challenges arose. I learned the incredible history of the Chesapeake Western Railroad, why the building was built at all, the evolution of train culture / industry in Harrisonburg, and honestly fell in love with this building. I refer to it all the time as my Depot – even though it has other owners.
I was fortunate to be able to invite some of my friends to join me in the professional office space upstairs as construction finished up in the summer of 2016. It was an incredible project to be involved with on a daily basis for over a year. Then on July 5, 2016 we got permission from the city to inhabit the building. Moving day had finally arrived.
Now three years later time has flown by and I am still just as much in love with this building. Our work on this building, signage on the street, and monthly parties has grown our business without question. Saving a historic building in downtown Harrisonburg has expanded the narrative I want to tell about design, our business, and the importance of making sustainable decisions. The historic Chesapeake Western Depot building is a gem in our town and the CW has helped to shape our city in the past and my firm for the future.
As our 3 year anniversary arrives on July 5th I want to invite you to our monthly celebration of the arts, our building, and our small business. Just like our very first art opening in our space back in August 2016 with Rhett Miles, we have some amazing artists for you to see this month. I was blown away by their work as they were hanging it yesterday. You are going to want to be there! It is worth the drive, walk, scooter trip, or uber – come on by and see us!