Greater Erie Award for Adaptive Reuse
“We’re trying to restore it back to its original look. That’s our goal.”
This is how Jesse Fiske Sr., owner of Fiske Building Maintenance and Restoration, responded when we shared the news that Preservation Erie is honoring his work on the Amos Judson Building at 102 High Street in Waterford with a 2020 Greater Erie Award for Adaptive Reuse. This award category recognizes buildings, structures, or spaces that have been renovated to allow a thoughtful or community-enhancing reuse that respects the historic character of the site. The buildings, structures or spaces must be at least 50 years old.
The Judson Building, which dates to the 1830s, is in the Waterford Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Waterford District is a collection of 42 commercial and residential buildings built between 1820 and 1939. The three-story building now owned by Fiske was built by early Waterford resident Amos Judson as a dry-goods store. Judson’s residence was located across the street from the business, and, today, it is an historic site maintained by the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society. In addition to its original use as a dry-goods store, the Judson Building has also been a furniture store, funeral home, and, most recently, an auto supply store.
Mr. Fiske purchased the building in April 2017, as Waterford Borough was preparing to demolish it. An exterior wall of the vacant building had collapsed in that March, damaging a neighboring structure and sparking concerns over the safety of the structure. His first project as the new property owner was to secure the building against future collapses.
He and his son Jake have grand plans for the Judson Building. The first floor is being renovated into a coffee shop. The second floor will hold an indoor ax-throwing range, while the third floor, once used for dances and roller skating, will serve as an indoor archery range. Yes, you’ve read this right. …ax-throwing and archery ranges.
It’s taking nearly three years to complete renovations, because, as Mr. Fiske explained, “I work for my clients during the day. I do this (work on the Judson Building) every night.”
And he knows what he’s doing. Mr. Fiske has nearly 40 years of experience in working on historic structures. He’s done extensive work in the historic Pennsylvania communities of Coudersport and Wellsboro, and counts the rebuilding of the top of the Erie Land Lighthouse as one of his favorite projects.
Thus far on the exterior of the Judson Building, he has repaired all of the wood products on the facade of the building, including windows, doorway, pilasters, storefront framing, and cornice. Thirty-six new wood (poplar) sash windows have been made for the south-facing wall to match the existing historic windows on the front of the building. The roof of the original building has been replaced, and the roof of the 25-foot rear addition (which was added shortly after the building was built) will be replaced this summer. He has also dismantled and is in the process of rebuilding the 16-inch north-facing wall of the rear addition that was crumbling onto the building next door.
Interior work has included installation of the coffee shop counter and fireplace, and paneling, painting, and plastering walls.
In support of the Judson Building rehabilitation, Mr. Fiske has received two facade improvement grants, one from Preservation Erie and the other from Waterford Borough. Both grants were funded through the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Mission Main Street grant program.
Mr. Fiske is aiming for a late summer/early fall completion date, although the completion date could change due to the pandemic.
Even though this project isn’t finished, Preservation Erie felt it important to acknowledge Mr. Fiske’s efforts to save and reactivate an anchor downtown building that was so close to being torn down. Thank you, Mr. Fiske, for seeing the potential in the Judson Building, investing your own personal resources into its rehabilitation, and paying attention to the architectural features that make this building so special.