Browne-Davis Building owner wants another 100 years out of downtown storefront.

Associates from Natoli General Contractors work on the historic Hunter-Oliphant Building on Dec. 21. Building Owner Jeff Barnes said the small restoration project broke ground in early November and will finish up before the end of the year. This $42,000 facelift will only touch on the bricks, paint and windows of the West First Street facing of the building. It was funded in part by Oswego's $525,000 Downtown Revitalization Fund.

 

OSWEGO — Another restoration project challenging the wear and tear of time has in Oswego is almost complete.

The owners of the historic Hunter-Oliphant Building; also known as the Browne-Davis building, located between 215-219 W. First St., started a $42,000 restoration project to uplift the building’s exterior features started in early November and will finish in late December.

“I want this building to be around for another 100 years,” said building owner Jeff Barnes.

Barnes tasked Oswego based Natoli General Contractors to do just that. Starting in November, Barnes said the structure needed work done to the bricks, window frames and the paint to be restored.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the project and store front improvements of the building is funded in part by a small part of the $525,000 Downtown Improvement Fund.

“Our Downtown Improvement Fund, through the DRI, partly funded the refacing of the brick with a $28,500 grant and an additional $3,500 grant for Madia's Floral Shop's new signage,” Barlow said.

According to Oswego County Historian Justin White, the original land started as two separate buildings and businesses: the Oliphant Block built in 1880, and the Hunter Block built in 1882. The Hunter Block was once home to a furniture store named Paine and Hunter. The Oliphant Block had a publishing company named the Oswego County Directory. The first-floor storefronts notably were made of cast-iron facades from Oswego’s Kingsford Foundry and Machine Works.

“It is a fine surviving example of an Italianate-style commercial building,” White said.

White noted that the two buildings were combined into a single furniture store and in 1937 took the name of the prominent Browne-Davis Furniture Store. In 1995, the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP) added it to its list of historical locations for its architectural significance.

The building also housed Barnes Williams Environmental Consultants from 1983 until 2005. He had an idea for further use, but needed a critical approval first.

“In 2005, I said to my wife, ‘take a walk with me,’ she came down to the building, and we took the elevator to the fifth floor. It opened up into a completely dark 100 by 30-foot space with water standing on the floor. I said to her, how would you like to live here,” Barnes said.

The space was sold to the Barneses on May 13, 2015; they bought the building from B-D Abacus LLC for $1,025,000. Since taking ownership, Barnes said he has improved every floor of the building as the nine apartments became open, he improved their quality.

“What we've done since then is go into the apartments and put down hardwood floors. We have put in new plumbing and new electrical fixtures,” Barnes said. “As people moved out, we have upgraded the apartments.”

Barnes said that the building has all the necessities of everyday life surrounding it. Locations like a grocery store, the pharmacy and easy access to the downtown area. “It's a wonderful place to live.”

Mayor Barlow emphasizes the importance of this building to the downtown community and highlights some of the some prominent downtown businesses currently in the first floor of the building.

 

“The Browne Davis building itself, in addition to the tenants including Maida's and the Armed Forces Career Center make for great storefronts and are exactly the type of tenants we want in our downtown area,” Barlow said.

Barnes is thankful for the city’s assistance in funding the project and is excited to see what the building’s future will hold.

“We are very grateful for the money from the Downtown Revitalization Fund. We are thrilled to be a part of what is happening downtown. I love the new buildings and new fronts and signs,” Barnes said.

Barnes told The Palladium-Times that he plans to restore the other sides of the building, eventually doing a restoration for all the facings on the building.

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