Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

Ballroom Blitz

INDEPENDENCE -- Laura Archer remembers having to scoot sideways to get through aisles of junk piled high on the second floor of their building at 194 S. Main St. when they purchased it 12 years ago.

Bob and Laura Archer purchased the building at the corner of Main and C streets in Independence in 1999 and recently finished renovating the upstairs. The property was originally built as a Masonic Lodge in 1884 and was also used by the Odd Fellows from 1902 until the 1950s.

Photo by Pete Strong

Bob and Laura Archer purchased the building at the corner of Main and C streets in Independence in 1999 and recently finished renovating the upstairs. The property was originally built as a Masonic Lodge in 1884 and was also used by the Odd Fellows from 1902 until the 1950s.

August 23, 2011

INDEPENDENCE -- Laura Archer remembers having to scoot sideways to get through aisles of junk piled high on the second floor of their building at 194 S. Main St. when they purchased it 12 years ago.

Its previous owner was a furniture salesman who used the space as storage. Chairs, sofas and other items sat in stacks up to the ceiling. One office even had a coffin.

More on that later (see sidebar, "Sheleton in the Closet").

The ground floor of the two-story building would become Laura and Bob Archer's veterinary practice. They cleared out the upstairs and used it for their own gatherings. A hardwood floor made it a natural for dances.

This undated photo shows the Speakeasy Building across C Street from what is now Ash Creek Animal Clinic and Maxine

Photo courtesy of Bob and Laura Archer

This undated photo shows the Speakeasy Building across C Street from what is now Ash Creek Animal Clinic and Maxine's Ballroom housing a surgeon and grocery.

"We refinished the floor 10 years ago ... and it was about the only thing about the space that was good," Bob Archer said, noting falling ceiling tiles and water damage. "The rest of it we just kind of painted over so you didn't notice it."

The Archers always saw potential. But the results of a recently concluded renovation have surprised even them.

The couple has restored the second floor to its turn-of-the-century splendor and transformed it into a new event center -- Maxine's Ballroom.

"Remodeling wasn't really a business decision, to have events and make money," Laura said. "Though hopefully that might happen.

"The building just needed it."

The Archer's Italianate-style building was erected in 1884 as a Masonic hall. The ballroom -- its entrance is on C Street -- originally served as a lodge. The ground floor was leased as a mercantile.

Maxine

An adjacent building was constructed to the west and attached to the property in 1894 and the Odd Fellows fraternal group bought the entire site in 1902.

The hall hosted dances for soldiers stationed at Camp Adair during World War II, according to a historic resource survey.

The Odd Fellows remained active until the 1950s. Their old upstairs lodge was sporadically used for youth events and meetings before falling into disrepair.

The Archers purchased the building in 1999 and turned the ground floor into Ash Creek Animal Clinic.

Repairs on the second story, meanwhile, have been slow. Until this year. The couple acquired personal loans -- as well as one from the city of Independence -- and began renovations in earnest in March.

Details like this patch of original wallpaper found underneath wainscoting were preserved in the update.

Photo by Pete Strong

Details like this patch of original wallpaper found underneath wainscoting were preserved in the update.

Water-damaged sheetrock and rotting wainscoting was removed. Rooms were completely repainted. The ceiling was lowered 6 inches and leveled. A bathroom and kitchen were added and a new heating and cooling system installed.

The Archers aren't strangers to historic preservation; they restored their 1893 Queen Anne home themselves. For contractors and subcontractors, Maxine's proved a challenge at times. Some walls, for example, had studs that went only waist high, Bob said.

"It's an old building and things are going to go wrong," Laura said. "And nothing is ever straight, which drives contractors crazy ... you have to be creative."

It's all been worth the wait. The end product is an exquisite 1,500-square-foot ballroom bathed in yellow, with tall windows that frame views of Riverview Park.

A kitchen addition was part of the Archers

Photo by Pete Strong

A kitchen addition was part of the Archers' renovation plans to allow for food service during events.

The entire room is accented with period furniture and an organ and piano picked up at antique stores over the years.

Maxine's has already hosted a fundraising concert and dance.

"Before, you had to try your hardest not to notice the flaws," Bob said. "It looks beautiful now ... anybody who knows how to dance wants to have one here."

Check It Out

* Maxine's Ballroom is located at 120 C St. in downtown Independence. The public is invited to tour Maxine's Ballroom during an open house scheduled Saturday, Aug. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information: www.maxinesballroom.com; 503-409-4039.

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