Downtown building facelift reveals historic site
Work crews in downtown Hillsboro were hard at work on Thursday, May 9, bringing an old building back to life.The brick storefront at 140 S.E. Second Ave. has stood for decades, but crews tore down the front of the building on Thursday, revealing the 1890s architecture long buried underneath it.
"Nobody has seen this," said co-owner Marc Ahrendt. "Even the old timers in Hillsboro have never seen anything but the brick that was here since probably the 1940s."
Ahrendt said the façade had to be removed so work crews could see the building's bones. When the front of the building was removed, it revealed long bricked up windows, with the names of old tenants still painted on them. "The history of this building is just fantastic," Ahrendt said.
The building will soon be home to Meridian Historic Tea House, a tea shop and restaurant. Ahrendt said he and his wife, novelist Delilah Marvelle, plan to offer high tea in the historic setting. Ahrendt estimates the building was erected between 1889 and 1891, which would make it one of the oldest buildings in the city. "This is actually older than the courthouse across the street," Ahrendt said.
A former home, Ahrendt said the building was previously owned by a cousin of Susan B. Anthony, as well as a district attorney for Oregon appointed by President Abraham Lincoln, and several mayors. It has also served as a law firm and the office of an osteopathic surgeon.
Ahrendt and his wife purchased the building in February, and Ahrendt expects it will be more than a year before renovations are completed and the tea shop is ready to open.
"This building is a passion," said Ahrendt, an engineer by trade.
Ahrendt and Marvelle live on several acres of property west of Hillsboro, and Ahrendt said he finds similarity between his rustic home and the 129-year-old building. "We share our property with the deer and the elk," Ahrendt said. "We're stewards of it. It's my job to make it better than what it was ... That's how I feel about this building. This is Hillsboro's building. There's so much history here, you don't feel worthy. We're just a small link in the chain of its history."
Marvelle will serve as the tea shop's head tea master and head chef. And Ahrendt's job? "I'm just a janitor," he said with a smile.
A website for Meridian is expected to go live in June, featuring a blog of the building's renovation work.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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