The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) is reconstructing the DuPre House, a historic structure with deep roots in Spartanburg, while Spartanburg Community College is renovating the Evans building, an early 1920s high school, for its new downtown campus. Another group of local investors is renovating the former Oakman Glass building, also known as the old Oregon Hotel and Spartan Hotel, on Magnolia Street into 27 studio and one-bedroom apartments.
“These projects collectively do nothing but build momentum downtown,” said city of Spartanburg Economic Development Director Patty Bock. “These type of renovation efforts attract not only local developers, but others who want to look at investing in other properties.”
Brad Steinecke, local history assistant at the Spartanburg County Library, said efforts to preserve the three buildings were pivotal to preserving the history and character of downtown.
“Those particular buildings have wonderful architectural details, and it would have been a shame if they would’ve been lost over time,” Steinecke said.
The DuPre House was built in 1886. It was designed by Gottfried Norrman, a Swedish architect who also designed the Spartan Opera House and Spartan Inn.
Norrman then moved to Atlanta, where he designed many Queen Anne-style structures in the city’s downtown.
“The DuPre House is, I believe, the only Gottfried Norrman structure we have left,” Steinecke said of the ornate, grand home with distinct architectural features, including a decorative mosaic tile on the front porch and five large chimneys.
The house was built by William Wallace Duncan, a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on North Church Street, but it was moved in 1999 to make way for the Marriott at Renaissance Park.
Monk Monaghan, facilities director for the Carolinas Campus of VCOM, said the exterior renovation will be complete by the end of the year, but the college hasn’t determined how the house will be used.
Just a few blocks away from VCOM, a group of investors is in the middle of a renovation effort to convert the former Oakman Glass building into Magnolia Lofts apartments. Although they will market the apartments to anyone wanting to live just steps away from downtown and the courthouse, the Magnolia Street apartments will be ideal for VCOM students, said John Bauknight, a Spartanburg businessman and investor.
Bauknight, along with Andrew Babb, Nick Wildrick and Greg Atkins, are investing $2.7 million into the 100-year-old property. Magnolia Lofts will be finished by Feb. 1.
“VCOM was what really kick-started this project,” Bauknight said. “We had the building, but when the bottom dropped out of the economy, we didn’t really know what we were going to do in the long term, but VCOM really ignited this.”
Bauknight said the project is another example of the excitement and potential in downtown Spartanburg.
“I’ve never seen the energy any better than it is right now,” Bauknight said. “It’s fantastic.”
Bauknight said, as an investor, having three large renovation projects under way simultaneously helps people visualize new life in historic buildings.
“The DuPre house is an exciting project, and the Evans building will be great,” Bauknight said. “We’re happy to be a part of that.”
The Evans building, initially built as Frank Evans High School then used as the first Spartanburg High School, is undergoing about $18 million in renovations as Spartanburg Community College’s downtown campus. The college plans to hold classes there beginning in fall 2013.
SCC President Henry Giles said the college purchased the building from Spartanburg County.
“We want to put the building back as close as we can to how it appeared in the 1920s,” Giles said. “We want to restore all of its grandeur with rock work and brick work, and to repair the original windows.”
The building will be energy efficient. When complete, it will have a LEED silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Giles said the building has a prime location downtown.
“We have a large population of people who live in Spartanburg that have a difficult time finding transportation to our central campus,” said Giles, adding that about 800 students are expected to take courses at the downtown campus. “This campus will open up a whole host of opportunities to help people improve their job skills.”
The exterior of the building will be power washed, and the college plans plenty of landscaping to beautify the exterior.
A new main entrance will be opened onto Kennedy Street, and S.C. Works will rent space on the lower level. “The Evans building was built as a classroom building, and we think that when the school’s elder alumni walk in there, they will feel like they’re in the old Evans building,” Giles said. “We are making a concerted effort to minimize wall configuration, and we are keeping the gym and the auditorium. ... It’s an ambitious, but exciting project.”