November 29, 2011 by: Ben Heimsath

Historic Renovation Inn old parade resized 600

The Zapp Building in this historic photo was already a landmark.

In 2003, Maryann and Clovis Heimsath transformed the historic Zapp Building on the square in Fayetteville Texas.  The 100 year-old structure was given a complete historic renovation to better accommodate the Country Place Hotel

Clovis and Maryann recently reflected on their accomplishments and came up with some of the biggest lessons they learned from the experience.  Clovis offers a list of 15 tips that he recommends to anyone contemplating the renovation of a historic country inn.  We'll share these as a series - look for them in the next few weeks.

15 Tips for Restoring A Country Inn

by Clovis Heimsath, FAIA

Tip #1:   Engage an architect from the very beginning.

Since we are affiliated with Heimsath Architects, Maryann and I could rely on both our own experience with older buildings and the many resources provided by our colleagues in the firm.  As a team, we evaluated a range of options for the design.  We also looked at issues concerning permitting, including accessibility requirements.  We determined budgeting priorities with the help of our initial cost projections and later detailed estimates. We looked at priorities for either restoring or completely replacing a variety of original materials that were damaged or had exceeded their useful lifespan. 

It was very important to balance preservation of the historic character with cost and performance.  For example, we opted to replace the original metal roof with a new one.  We oversized the downspouts and lined the gutters with modern elastomeric materials. Historic Renovation Inn plasterer  35 resized 600This made sense since the roof area was screened from the street and therefore did not impact the historic image of the building. 

Introducing some modern materials made sense on the roof.  The old one had apparently leaked along the edge and had been damaging the interior of the masonry walls long before we bought the building.  The new roof finally fixed the problem for good!  The plaster walls below, though badly deteriorated, were patched and restored.  We could have rebuilt the interior with new wall surfaces, but the look and quality of the finished plaster was worth the effort.  All of these considerations required the overview of an experienced architect, who prepared the proper documentation, drawings and specifications to make the project happen as it was envisioned. 

Tip #2:   Know your location.

Fayetteville Texas is midway between Houston, Austin and San Antonio.  It is a small, picturesque settlement and the entire town was recently designated a National Register Historic District.  Fayette County is a regular destination for bicyclists, artists, weekenders and retirees. Be sure any building you are considering is in a town or neighborhood that can draw visitors. Determine who will be your customer and understand why they would come to your location. 

Historic Renovation Inn brickwork resized 600The best way to get to know an area is to stay there over a period of time. Our family has lived in Fayetteville for years. We actually bought the old Zapp Building in the 1970's and had used it as a restaurant and offices.  Decades before, we had even turned the old upstairs into an informal Bed and Breakfast.  But we weren't ready to run a fully-functioning country inn, and it's doubtful that, at the time, the area could have supported one.  When we proposed this renovation, however, the area was ready.  Everyone in town welcomed the restoration of the Zapp Building and eagerly anticipated the coming of the new Country Place Hotel. The building is arguable among the finest structures in area, and would certainly have been lost if we hadn't purchased it years before. 

Tip #3:  Research country inns.

There's no better way to learn about country inns than visiting other establishments.  Start on-line then arrange for a visit in person. We set up a research visitation program, and toured at least a dozen country inns and bed and breakfasts. As often as possible, we made a reservation to stay over and then invited the owners to dinner. We discussed a lot more than room rates and recipes. Among many specific suggestions, we were encouraged to provide a large public room for community activities. The space we provided we call the Moravia Room.  Today, among other activities in that space, we have a two-weekend Fayetteville Chamber Music Festival with the musicians reserving the whole hotel for ten days. 

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Can't wait to see all 15 Tips?  Download all of them here.

Adaptive Re-use/ Historic Preservation