When River Street Architects Principal, Justin Dumsday, toured the serene, old building at the corner of East 7th and Walnut Streets, he wondered what would be discovered when the demolition team began its work. The structure appeared to be in great shape, after all, it had never been abandoned.
Hamilton County acquired the building directly across from the county courthouse in the 1970s and used it for office space. They installed drop ceiling tiles, covered walls with sheetrock and hanged fluorescent light fixtures. Officials named it the Mayfield Annex in honor of Commissioner Jack Mayfield. Energy efficiency was the theme of that decade, but when the annex was originally built in 1907—ornamentation was in!
“The county added layers over time, “ describes Dumsday. “But they had not destroyed anything—in fact, they didn’t want to spend any money on structural changes.”
In 2016 Lamp Post Properties, a division of the venture incubator Lamp Post Group, bought the property to develop for technology incubator space. River Street architects was awarded the task of redesigning the space. T.U.Parks is the construction contractor.
“We found beautiful architectural details, both inside and out,” says River Street’s Heather Adcox. The research of Dumsday and Adcox reveals the Elks, a national service club active from 1860 through the 1900s, were building similar structures all over the country. From ornate cornices outside to a massive brick fireplace on the second floor, the Elks Lodge “look” is yielding solidity to Chattanooga’s Innovation District. The renovation of the 22,164 square-foot building is expected to be completed in spring 2017.
“It’s going to be a joint venture with Vayner Media,” says Tiffanie Robinson, president and CEO of Lamp Post Properties. The sale was finalized in February at a cost of $200,000. The repurposing is estimated at $3 million.
VaynerMedia Vice President Mickey Cloud says, “We look forward to the move, as the new space will be an exciting one to grow within.” The digital media company will occupy the fourth floor of what Cloud calls “a really cool building.”
The location, including the building at the city’s center, a core that had been rapidly decomposing, has been hollowed out to create 140 acres now referred to as the Innovation District. Lamp Post Properties holds 150,000 square-feet of space in the District. Principal players say refurbished spaces like the Mayfield and the lure of Lamp Post capital draws in new out-of-town companies.
The Mayfield Annex had been on the Cornerstones, Inc. endangered list for several years. The organization’s mission is saving historic urban structures like the Mayfield and it currently has preserved over a dozen buildings in Chattanooga to date, including the one its offices are located in, on Georgia Avenue.
“We at Cornerstones are excited that the new property owners see the value in preserving this significant historic structure,” says Ann Gray, Cornerstones, Inc. executive director. “Our mission is to preserve the architectural heritage and urban fabric of Chattanooga. That works out best when initiatives like Lamp Post are in place with a plan.”
Photography courtesy of Cornerstone Inc. and Lamp Post Properties