Each year, City Planner Richard Osborne said, the commission highlights projects within its jurisdiction that are good examples of historic preservation or improvement work in order to celebrate May as National Historic Preservation Month. Ordinarily the commission would honor a commercial and a residential project, but in 2014 two commercial projects stood out.
“There were two excellent improvement awards ... those projects just stood up head and shoulders above the others,” Osborne said.
Sprague said he and his family did all the work on the 120 S. Gilmer St. building that now houses his restaurant, Louie’s Cafe. Winning the award was flattering, he added.
“We’ve been in business for four years and it’s kind of the first award we’ve ever won. So it was exciting to win one. I designed and built it. I did all of the design and construction work, so to get the recognition for it was very rewarding,” Sprague said.
When Sprague began considering moving his restaurant from its former location on Joe Frank Harris Parkway in the Goodwill shopping center, he looked at the small building on Tennessee Street that once housed the Johnny Mitchell’s Express restaurant. Although he thought the location was too small, with too little parking, Sprague later found out he could acquire the building next to it.
“I’m the kind of guy — I just look around to try to figure out how things work and I said, ‘Well if I join these two buildings together we could use the one building as a kitchen and one building as a dining room and we’d have the parking lot out across Mission Tire,’” he said.
The dining area, according to Osborne, was once used for various automotive applications and later restaurant and office spaces. The structure dates back to the 1920s, at least.
“We’ve got access to [a] fire insurance map from the 1920s showing that that building was there at least from 1927 and most likely before then. ... But really just taking down the covered up area and showing those windows, doing so much outside and inside work, was just a labor of love for sure for Will and his wife,” Osborne said.
The windows facing Gilmer Street and the intersection of Tennessee, Leake and Gilmer streets, had always been part of the building, Sprague said.
“The windows were there. They were actually behind that old vinyl siding that had been there for years — we figure sometime in the early 1980s,” he said. “The frames were there. The windows — a lot of glass was broken. There was a lot of paint on the windows where people had like blacked them out for various things.
“We wanted to use the windows because it’s a beautiful facade to have the windows up. So we cleaned out the windows, wire brushed all of them. I used automotive paint, you know, painted them back up and had a glass guy come in and put the glass back in it.”
Sprague said he wanted to keep as much of the building as original as possible, though he did have to add an interior divider to compensate for an uneven floor created after years of concrete pourings.
“We just wanted to keep it open, try to keep as much original stuff as possible. The wall in the back is over 100 years old. We don’t know exactly when it was built, but we figure somewhere around 1900. The ceiling in there is the original ceiling. That was originally a carriage house from what they tell me at the historical preservation society,” Sprague said.
The property at 123 W. Main St. restored by Goss was once a probation office, and was in need of repair, Osborne said, due to water damage on its outer wall.
“The inside and out of that space is just amazing. The difference of what it was, in particular the side wall that had a lot of damage to it was just a night and day change to the brick facade that’s on there now. People driving up and down Main Street have a lot better view of it,” he said.
Awarding Sprague’s and Goss’ projects was a good way to kick off the city’s celebration of National Historic Preservation Month, Osborne said. He believed such celebrations were necessary in order to help preserve Cartersville’s downtown and contribute to economic growth.
“It’s difficult and expensive to create a brand-new downtown. Some Atlanta suburbs have done that over the last 20 years with mixed results, depending if you’re in Cobb County or Gwinnett County or other places. Cartersville is lucky and blessed to have a downtown that’s been kept up over the years and particularly the 1990s when people like John Lewis have taken huge steps to privately improve downtown,” he said. “The renovation and resurgence of downtown for being a seven-days-a-week operation and operating just as much at night as it is the daytime, that’s the goal of the private merchants, the Downtown Development Authority, and the city of Cartersville wants to do what we can to encourage continued economic development growth downtown. Historic preservation is one more tool to help economic development for the downtown area.”
Today the city will host a meet and greet for the commercial and residential property owners in the city’s local historic districts. Those who own property in the Cherokee-Cassville, Downtown Business District, Granger Hill, Olde Town and West End historic districts are invited to the meet and greet at 6 p.m. at the Cartersville Civic Center, 435 W. Main St. City Attorney David Archer is slated to speak about the history of Cartersville, while Goss will talk about the upcoming Spring Ramble that is coming the weekend of May 17.