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The ‘lofts’ of HL to hold open house, ready for renters
Oct. 11, 2010
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Howard Lake’s oldest building is completely refurbished after three years of hard work

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – Gerry and Carol Smith, owners of Hearts and Hands Home Improvements, call refurbishing the old building at 809 6th Street a work of love.

Hearts and Hands Home Improvements will be hosting an open house Saturday, Oct. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The open house will be an opportunity for the residents of Howard Lake to view the newly refurbished building.

The open house is also Gerry and Carol’s way to show their appreciation for Dr. Mike Thoennes, DDS (the owner of the building) and all he has done for the building and the community, Gerry said.

Thoennes chose to refurbish the old building, because “he respected the history of the building and did not want to see an empty lot in Howard Lake,” Gerry said.

Hearts and Hands Home Improvements has been working to restore the building for more than three years, along with many local subcontractors.

“Everybody has taken so much pride in the project as they have been a part of it,” said Gerry. “Some even stop in to see the progress that has been made since their work was done.”

It took a year and a half to gut, and another three years to build it back up.

Gerry and Carol completely gutted the building right down to the brick walls before starting to refurbish.

In all, there were 13 dumpsters of lathe and plaster hauled away when they were working on gutting it.

While gutting the building, workers found a brick that was set in 1888. It had the date and some initials inscribed in it, according to Gerry.

Gerry determined that the building had been through five major remodeling projects throughout the years based on the different walls within the building.

The walls were covered in several different materials. They tore out paneling, tiles, and even old thick, burlap type wallpaper, Gerry said.

He believes the burlap type wallpaper is from the bank that used to be in the building.

The building has housed many different businesses throughout the years, but is best known as the bank building.

The fancy brickwork on the front of the building was more than likely added when the bank moved in, which was about 1908, Gerry said.

At one time, there was a lawyer’s office housed on the second floor, Gerry said, but it has been an apartment now for a long time.

During the 1980s, the building housed Dr. Thoennes’ main office. It has also housed a barbershop, an antique shop, a dry cleaners, and a quilt shop, according to Gerry and Carol.

While gutting out the building, Gerry and Carol tried to be as green as possible and recycle everything they could.

Every board that could be reused was placed back in the building during refurbishing.

Tile from either the barbershop or the dry cleaners was cleaned up and repaired. It is now the floor of the bathroom in the apartment on the main floor.

The safe from the bank, with its 18–inch walls and original inner doors, is the walk-in closet for the main floor apartment.

Although they tried to keep as much of the old as possible, Gerry and Carol did have to use new for many things, as the old just would not work anymore.

They tried to save the burlap type wallpaper, but there were tiles over it that had been glued on, and it was not salvageable.

“One of the biggest challenges of refurbishing the building has been trying to get the old to meet the new,” Gerry said.

To help meet that challenge, Gerry had LeRoy Schauer install custom cabinets and woodwork throughout the building.

Where new flooring was needed, Floor Value, of Howard Lake, installed it, Gerry said.

All the electric and plumbing throughout the building is completely new.

All of the ductwork is new or has been cleaned thoroughly.

Diers Electric, of Howard Lake, rewired the entire building.

Diers Plumbing and Heating, of Howard Lake, installed the new heating and air conditioning.

Pauly’s Plumbing and Heating, of Winsted, installed all new plumbing throughout the building.

New superstructure beams had to be installed throughout the building to bring it up to code.

The appliances in both apartments are brand new and energy-efficient.

For the landscaping in back of the building, a gravity sprinkler system was installed. A rain barrel, attached to sprinkler heads in the landscaping, catches the rain water off the roof and disperses it.

The steps that went to the street in front of the building have been moved to come off the back of the building, as they did in the past, according to Gerry.

Specially insulated windows were installed throughout the building to cut the noise from traffic along highway 12.

“We definitely took advantage of the view of the lake and have all the big windows facing it,” said Gerry.

The finished building has two apartments with commercial space facing the street.

Both apartments have two bedrooms and one bath. They have a lofty feel to them with exposed ductwork, high ceilings, and exposed brick walls.

The main floor apartment is approximately 1,100 square feet, and the second floor apartment is around 850 square feet. The commercial space in front is approximately 260 square feet.

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