What would YOU do with this historic brick building?

March 20 2012 | arielmstallings
What would you do with this property?

My friend Amy Danziger Ross, a grad student in Idaho, recently found this amazing property in a very small town:

$75,000. GREAT HISTORIC BRICK BUILDING. STARTED OUT AS A BANK WITH A MASONIC LODGE LOCATED ON THE 2ND FLOOR. MAIN FLOOR IS SET UP AND HAS BEEN RUN AS THE ELK TAVERN FOR MANY YEARS. THERE IS AN APARTMENT IN THE BACK ON MAIN FLOOR. SECOND FLOOR HAS NOT BEEN USED FOR YEARS, MOSTLY ONE BIG ROOM WITH HIGH CEILING, FIR FLOORING, LOTS OF WINDOWS AND 2 FIREPLACES.

Let me get this straight: for $75k, she could have the entire building, complete with her own tavern on the main floor:

The tavern on the main floor -- check out the bra chandelier!

As Amy said:

"We found what could maybe be our dream house — an old Masonic Lodge on the second floor, a bar and a grocery (and an apartment) on the first floor. We like the idea of making the second floor into a library. And it's less than an hour out of Moscow, ID.

There are some problems, though. The boy drove out there and says it's not in great shape — would probably need like $100k worth of work, though he thinks it's livable. It's also kind of far from civilization, and people say the town is a little creepy."

So, the town might be a little on the meth lab/zombie apocalypse side of things. But let's picture the library on the second floor:

A shot from the upstairs -- high ceilings, multiple fireplaces, big windows!

Or she could gut the whole thing and take over the downtown of this tiny town with some sort of bike collective/arts community/distillery!

Fantasy time: What would YOU do with this building?

  1. I would.. start a mix of a second hand book store, literary/ writers' cafe, bakery, slam poetry lab, book crossing zone and pet adoption center (hello, local humane society!) because reading a book with a cup of tea, a scone and a cat on your lap is _the_ best way to be.

    Added benefits: no mice, free pets and good company.

  2. I would totally make it a mash-up business with all my fav things — bookstore, espresso shop, microbrew bar, and art shop and studio! The mention of a meth/creepie town does give me pause though… I'd probably check out that atmosphere and the level of public safety before making an offer.

  3. The upper floors and one bottom floor would be my house. I would open the tavern as a soda shop (?) or as a bar and a bookstore on the lower floors.

  4. frankly, i'm on board with bike cooperative/arts community/distillery.

    although i am also kind of excited about the idea of reopening the tavern and grocery store. i'm thinking a farmer's market/general store combo.

  5. No doubt about it, I'd save an apartment upstairs, but have pottery studio/s and gallery on the ground floor!! I like the distillery idea too! :o) And restore as much as possible to it's former beauty.

    • I intentionally stripped out the identifying information because Amy and her partner are in the process of negotiating with the building owner, and I didn't want to create any hassles for them! 🙂

  6. That is awesome! It'd be great to turn it into something that would enhance the community. Maybe part of the downstairs into a restaurant space for some young innovative chef to take over, a neighborhood skill share center where locals or other folk can teach skills/arts to others. Nifty! Depending on how big it is you could live in it, but have LOTS of cats, like the Hemingway place in Key West!

  7. Oh my God, I'd move in upstairs with all my friends and we'd run all sorts of businesses downstairs and live happily ever after.
    A coffee shop on the corner, get the tavern up and running, a little art gallery in the middle.
    BUILDING, I JUST WANT TO LOVE YOU.

  8. These kinds of opportunities are so exciting! I kind of wish we had found something like this instead of our white-picket-fence house (but then again I think of all the work we put into THAT and just wilt thinking of gutting and revamping a place… so maybe not for us). If the town is bearable, I think it could be tons of fun. Make it a hot spot! Lift the town up! Draw more people from the surrounding areas! Take a risk and good luck! 🙂 (And come back in a year or so and tell us what you ended up doing!)

  9. I'd restore the whole thing and use it to film an indie sitcom. A tavern, a library, a post office, a living room, and a great establishing shot – what other sets do you need?

  10. Tough question to answer without knowing the needs of the community, however I'd like to submit Harvest Moon Brewing Company as an example of an awesome business in a tiny, rather bizarre, and certainly unexpected community. My husband and I stopped at a bar in Great Falls, MT on a roadtrip and tried some of their delicious brew…so of course we had to stop by the brewery in the tiny town of Belt. Never would have imagined such a cool brewery in such an obscure place. You can create a business that draws people while serving folks both in and outside of the community, and live there.
    http://www.harvestmoonbrew.com/index.php?p=why-belt

  11. I think I would turn the bar into a coffee shop and make the upstairs my photography studio. This place is perfect! If only it weren't in a creepy zombie town…

  12. Sandwich/soup cafe! (That is my retirement dream!) on one end, ground level. Thrifty second hand furniture store in the middle. Craft supply/studio on other end. Upstairs – local artists gallery that could be rented out for special occasions. OH! can't forget the roof deck! With green house to grow yummy treats to use in my Sandwich shop!

  13. Living quarters on the 2nd floor, 24-hour gym on the first floor. Once you get a bunch of muscle-heads regularly dropping in for their work-out, it's kind of like your own personal security service and nobody's gonna mess with the place.

  14. I read the title and saw the picture of the building. I began equipping it in my head for a zombie apocalypse. I think I might have a problem.

  15. Will someone please buy this and open the bar back up? My name is on a couple of the bras in that picture and it was such a bummer for us U of I students when it closed! The bar used to be the start of the traditional "Boville Run" where students get together and take a shot at each bar in a bunch of little towns on a highway loop…now we have to hang bras on a moose head and it's not the same at all!

  16. If I had my way:
    Downstairs: coffee shop/bakery run by two friends that converts into a bar at night run by my partner and one of said friends, and a bookstore/art gallery.
    Upstairs: Super classy lingerie/sex toy shop that also offers burlesque/aerial pole classes. Complete with performance area.

    And I'm sure that outside somewhere Viking would demand to have a garage for his auto mechanic business.

    Oddly enough, we already had this idea, but no building.

  17. I would love for it to be a bakery/coffee shop/art gallery/general cozy place to spend a day place downstairs (Harkening back to an amazing sort-of-coffee shop back in my hometown -RIP The Globe-) with couches, board games, books, and funky trinkets.
    I would turn the upstairs into a performance space and also a record shop/pressing studio/maybe try and start a little label of sorts to give bands that don't have the opportunity to press on vinyl the chance.
    A girl can dream, and dream, and dream!

  18. This building isn't too far away from where I live. I would probably make the first floor into a bakery that delivers to the surrounding areas and provide a little walk in bakery for the local folk. Doesn't get a lot of foot traffic, let along driving traffic, so it would have to be made into something that didn't rely on people coming to you.

  19. Without knowing the demographics of the town, I'd opt for possibly keeping the bar (but up-scaling it a bit)converting the upstairs to living quarters/artists' studio, and running an internet based business from it. Micro-brewery is an option, but again only if the area can support it or you can market the product elsewhere.

  20. I would buy the building and about 5 of the adjoining lots. Construct a massive underground shelter in these lots and under the building with at least 3 methods of entry to the underground. Install bullet proof roll-down shutters on all the windows and Kevlar in all the walls. Sell some of the underground units as condos. Finish it off with a family restaurant and decor that matches the original design. None of the changes would change the appearance.

    • Are the zombies also armed?!?

      Just what kind of zombie apocalypse are we talking here? I was really just imaging your standard "Shaun of the Dead" type infestation.

      Do you know something I don't know??

      • While soulless undead cannibals do not seem to really be capable of shooting a firearm; thugs, armies, immigrants, government forces, tax collectors, banks, and angry beavers all are fully capable of shooting said firearms. Plus think of the energy savings all that bullet proof insulation would provide.

  21. The mister and I want to get a building like this, turn the bottom level into a comicbook/geekery shop with a small cafe, and live on the upper floors.

  22. I think it would be grand to set up the first floor as a shared workspace like this: Camp Coworking. Maybe there's enough people who live locally but would like to skip the hour commute to the larger city?

    I have to say the $100K to fix it up gives me pause. In my experience, expensive repairs to a building will not immediately raise the value of the property to cover the repair costs. I would be concerned that the property would still only be worth say $125K after the $100K worth of repairs.

    But hopefully you won't need that sum all at once and you can make repairs as you go because this would be a rare opportunity to fill a lovely and unusual space!

  23. I'd turn part of it into a salon/barbershop, with all the natural light… Swoon! I'd leave the bar and grocery (revamp a bit, though) and convert the rest into living spaces.

  24. co-op youth hostel/restaurant/artist space. partition the upstairs into studio space for rent long or short term, on the cheap in exchange for working for the hostel or restaurant (or some other sharing of skills/resources). Some of the space reserved for hostel guests. plans could eventually include a community art space (darkroom, print shop, community classes, etc).

  25. Believe it or not, we're actually in the process of buying something similar to restore. It's an old historic hotel in a prairie town that has not been used for years. The building we're looking at is in worse condition though and will probably need a major renovation. We think it will pay off though since the cost of purchasing it and renovating it would be similar to the cost of a house and buying a rental property.

    Our plan is to restore the second story first for us to be able to live there and then we'll slowly refinish the first floor and basement and turn it into a rental property for businesses, or if I get bored, open a restaurant. The town we will be in is pretty nice, and the most important part is the city wants to see it restored which will be pretty helpful in terms of obtaining permits and going through the construction process quickly. If all goes well with the structural inspection next week we should have it in about a month and then the construction will begin….. Let me know if you guys want any photos and I can post them on Flickr once we move forward a bit.

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