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Historic Beardmore Block in Priest River, Idaho, Wins National Award

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The resurrected Beardmore Block The resurrected Beardmore Block

Great-grandson of Charles Beardmore reconstructs building to meet LEED Gold certification

Priest River, Idaho ¾ July 14, 2009. Priest River’s venerable Beardmore Block has received the Grand Award for Adaptive Re-use at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference held in San Francisco, California. The conference recognizes architectural and construction excellence throughout the West.

In accepting the award, Seattle architect-owner Brian Runberg, University of Idaho graduate, said that the project “serves as an important precedent for the region that historic buildings can be preserved in an appropriate way.” It is one of only five buildings on the National Register of Historic Places that have received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. With the renaissance of the Beardmore Block, Runberg has succeeded in preserving the legacy of his great-grandfather, Charles Beardmore, an Idaho pioneer who in 1922 commissioned renowned architects Whitehouse and Price to construct the building for his then-growing timber and mining businesses.  

In awarding the honor, judges noted that the project “demonstrates that preservation of existing features can be integrated with sustainable design strategies while creating a revitalization of Priest River’s historic downtown.” They were impressed with the way in which existing materials had been refurbished and reused in many areas, while reconstruction also adhered to the sustainable standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. 

Runberg is most enthused that the reopening of the historic building is contributing to the overall rebirth of Priest River, a town reeling from the downturn in the timber industry and the loss of nearby mills. “It’s the kingpin of the Priest River downtown historic core,” according to Don Watts of the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office. “It’s a great example of early 20th-century architecture and design.” As the centerpiece of the historic district, the renovated building attracts tenants who value both its unique historic character and green qualities. Noni, a wine bar in a first-floor space, has become so popular that it is causing parking problems in Priest River for the first time in many years. 

To meet the requirements for LEED Gold certification, almost all of the material that came out of the Beardmore Block during its renovation was recycled. Over 95 % of the original structural material remains, and over half of the nonstructural material is also original, including most of the wood used in the renovation.  

The roof was rebuilt to drain to a cistern in the basement that provides for tenants’ nonpotable water needs. New insulation dramatically increases thermal efficiency, and energy efficient light fixtures have garnered the building a significant rebate from its utility provider. Photovoltaic cells will provide additional onsite renewable energy. As a result, says Runberg, the Beardmore Block is 40-50% more efficient than a new building built today with current energy standards. 

To maintain historic integrity, Runberg drew on his personal knowledge of the building as well as on the recollections of his late grandmother, Vivienne Beardmore McAlexander, whose 18th birthday was celebrated at the Beardmore Block’s opening in 1923. The original window frames were removed, reconstructed to hold thermal glass, and replaced. Artistic flourishes, such as the leaded glass tiles on the transoms above the doors and the tile entrance floor, were rebuilt or refurbished. Even many of the original plumbing fixtures remain, having been reconstructed to reduce water use.  

The Beardmore Block is at 119 Main Street in Priest River. Storefront and office space are both currently available in the building; interested parties should contact Sandpoint Rentals, (208) 448-1922 or [email protected]. There is more information about the history of the building and the environmental aspects of its remodel at http://beardmoreblock.com/gallery.html.

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Cate Huisman Cate Huisman is a Sandpoint-based writer and editor.

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