News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 30, 2013

Apartments in historic building bring character, new life to Crossroads of America

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — At the historic Crossroads of America, also known as Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue, the top floor of one corner building has, in recent months, been renovated from aging storage space to upscale apartments.

The building, constructed in 1864, is familiar to many as the location of the downtown businesses Corner Grind and Boo’s Crossroads Café.

Owners Boo Lloyd and Melony and Peter Sacopulos  stood at the third floor by the windows Friday overlooking the busy crossroad as they spoke of the building’s history and the renovation. Lloyd’s husband, Gary, is also co-owner.

“We love the architecture of the building. We thought it had enormous potential,” Melony Sacopulos said about the building the partners aquired more than 10 years ago.

But before it was home to tenants and the famous café, it has hosted some businesses that have become part of the fabric of the community.

The Kaufman Block

The Kaufman Block, as the building was historically called, has been home to many businesses throughout its 149-year-history.

According to Terre Haute Landmarks, the large Italianate structure has played host to businesses such as The Bon Ton, Federal Bake Shop, Kadel’s Holiday Shoppe, Fannie May Candy Shop and others.

Built by grocer Andrew Kaufman, it was also the location of Kaufman’s grocery and liquor businesses in its early days.

But the owners noted its history as the venue of Martin’s Photo Shop, once “recognized as one of the finest portrait and commercial studios in the region,” according to Indiana State University.

It documented daily life in Terre Haute and Vigo County until it closed in 1976, according to the Indiana Historical Society.

Before the renovation, the third floor of the building was used for storage, particularly for what was left of Martin’s Photo Shop, including darkroom equipment and a safe where proofs were kept, the owners said.

“I think a lot of people have memories of the top floor [and] of Martin’s studios,” Lloyd said. She adds that many people have had their family pictures, high school pictures and other portraits taken at the studios.

“People remember. They love the history of the building. People tell us stories daily of what their families did here,” she said.

Windows at the Crossroads

Now, the top floor is getting a makeover.

“We developed the idea to convert the space into apartments about a year ago,” Sacopulos said.  “We worked with some architects and developed plans for apartments.

“We worked with the City of Terre Haute and the City has been very supportive of maintaining the historical character of the downtown,” Sacopulos continued.

An aspect of the project received city assistance through the Downtown Historic Facade Incentive Grant. The grant is offered by the Department of Redevelopment “to owners of architecturally and historically significant commercial properties as an incentive to restore the original character of their buildings,” its website states.

Recipients of the grant had to apply and adhere to eligibility, construction and restoration requirements.

“With the facade grant, we were able to have the windows restored in a historically accurate way,” Sacopulos said.

“The facade money really helped make it viable to re-do the old windows instead of just getting new windows,” she added.

Sacopulos pointed to the windows overlooking a beautiful view of trees, buildings and the steeples of three downtown churches to the north as she explained the work.

The frames are original “so they look old and have the same shape and appearance” but the glass is just like modern windows, with double pane/thermal glass “so they’re insulated,” she said.

The owners said that the grant helped with part of the cost for the windows’ restoration.

“We wanted to keep the windows,” Lloyd said, noting the historical significance.

“The true character of this building are these windows,” she added.

And the rest of the 3,000 square-foot space has been “gutted” to make ready for one-bedroom apartments at 1,500 square feet each.

The whole ceiling, including all the plaster, was taken down.

“The apartment had to be gutted. … There were places on the wall that had to be repaired, and then we installed these bamboo floors [over] the sub floor,” Melony Sacopulos said.

“All new electrical, all new HVAC, new plumbing and new staircase [from second floor] to the third floor,” Peter Sacopulos said.

The appliances were being moved into place Friday to get ready for a tenant, who is scheduled to move in next week.

The second unit will be ready on November.

The owners are excited.

“Peter and I have been involved in historic redevelopment for years and years,” Melony Sacopulos said. “It is such a privilege to be able to work with a structure like this and ensure that it is in a condition to serve downtown Terre Haute for years to come.”

Lloyd, who operates the cafe and coffee shop, agreed: “This is a really cool historic building and we love maintaining it. … It is a love. I believe you have to love these types of buildings to take care of them.”

“There’s a creative aspect to renovating a historic structure,” Melony Sacopulos said.

And this building, with its newly renovated top floor will soon be ready for the next phase of its life: as an upscale apartment space for people who work and study in downtown.

“I think it adds an important diversity of what is available in downtown Terre Haute,” Melony Sacopulos said. “In order for the downtown to be truly vital, there must be activity and, certainly, these apartments contribute to people being down here and living in downtown Terre Haute.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.