F&H Building: Reconstructing a Historic City BuildingMar 15 2016 · 0 comments · Commercial, NISHKIAN MONKS, Seismic ·0
The reconstruction of the F&H Building on 211 East Main Street was a major contribution to the revitalization of downtown Bozeman, its place in the community and local economy. The process of rebuilding also played a major part of the healing process for downtown Bozeman. Seven years ago in the morning of March 5, 2009, a gas main explosion and fire rocked the snow-covered downtown Bozeman, destroyed five historic buildings and businesses on the north side of the 200 block of East Main Street, and killed one young woman. Eleven months after the explosion, two Bozeman businessmen submitted plans to build a new three-story structure, which would fill more than fifty percent of the gaping hole and rebuild. Rockin R Bar owners, Ralph Ferraro and Mike Hope, named the new building the “F&H Building.”
Reconstructing two of the city’s oldest and most iconic buildings on 209-219 East Main Street was not without controversy. How do you rebuild the section of downtown for once known for its distinctive flat-topped brick buildings, each with unique, detailed facades and reliefs of Bozeman’s frontier heydays dating from 1929 to 1936? Professional historic preservation consultants and the community had reservations, and they worried that the lost structures might be replaced by modern monoliths without regard for the past.
From a pool of over 20 firms that submitted proposals Locati Architects, Martel Construction, and Nishkian Monks were chosen to create a new structure in the midst of historic downtown. The architects addressed the historical reconstruction question by using contextual architecture theory to design a modern building that looks and feels like there are historic structures around it. To create the sense of several buildings constructed at various time periods, the F&H Building is partly recessed from the street, upper floors are recessed from lower ones, some architectural elements are taller than others, some entries are recessed while others are reached by small porticos, and there are balconies on the second floor. A part of the building features open-air cafe seating on a small plaza, while the other part features over-sized awnings. The bar which backs the open-air seating area has a first-floor glass and steel front that can be raised to make the entire business an open-air bar. In July of 2011 this new three story building replaced the 1929 Ellis, Davis and Sperling Block and the 1936 Joyce Theater buildings. The brick, stone, and steel structure features 10,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the main floor, and 10,000 square feet of office space on the second floor. The second story offices have functioning balconies. The basement area is approximately 9,300 square feet. Nishkian Monks served as the structural engineer of record and special inspector for this project. The structural system was comprised of composite steel construction for the floors; dual lateral system of concrete masonry shear walls and special moment frames; and a conventional zero-lot line foundation. Nishkian Monks also provided a helical pile underpinning design for the adjacent historic unreinforced brick masonry building, as part of the F&H Building project. This project challenged Nishkian Monks to create the appearance of archaic multi-wythe brick masonry construction for the main street façade using single-wythe non-structural brick veneer construction. Suspended brick arches and soffits were incorporated throughout the project.
Reconstructing 211 East Main Street was an opportunity Nishkian Monks relished to help in resurrecting a downtown that had lost a portion of its identity after the devastating gas explosion and fire seven years ago. Today the F&H Building houses the Loft Spa, Fin Restaurant, and the Rockin’ R Bar– a Bozeman mainstay and icon ever since it originally opened on Main Street in the late 1940s. To the great delight of many the original Rocking R Bar neon sign amazingly survived the blast and now hangs as its crowning jewel on the exterior of the building welcoming new and old residents, students, and visitors.
F&H Building photo credit: © Karl Neumann