The plumbing sign for Tower & Porter can just be made on their eponymous building. A New York woman purchased the block in February and plans to refurbish it.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A New York woman has purchased the long empty Tower & Porter Block on Eagle Street and plans to renovate the building into storefront property and apartments.
Domenica Douglas purchased 34-36 Eagle St. on Feb. 28 for $45,000.
"I am not a contractor, developer or a corporation," Douglas said. "I am a single person that fell in love with this building and put everything I had into it."
The building has been left vacant for many years and has been minimally maintained. It remains in rough shape; however, Douglas believes it can be salvaged.
"It is a disaster, but it’s not beyond being saved," she said. "It'll be a lot of work, and it's not going to happen instantly."
She said the upstairs is in the worst condition and is littered with peeling paint and dead birds. Also, the roof has leaks and water damage runs throughout the building.
Although the building remains is such an unkempt condition, Douglas sees great beauty in the building.
"It has great architectural detail and it has 10-foot ceilings, clawfoot baths, and it has a lot of room for apartments," Douglas said. "I have 14,000 square feet to work with."
Douglas added that the basement is in immaculate condition compared to the rest of the building, and the building contains a fallout shelter.
The property has been on the market for years, at a much higher price than the $45,000 it sold for.
The Tower & Porter Block takes its name from the two plumbers who built it, according to local historian Paul W. Marino, who notes their faded advertisement can still be made out on the building's south wall.
Marino said the building is notable for its architecture and the cupola on the east side. The building's fire escape on Church Street, with its ringed stars on each step and a counterbalance that runs through a wooden shaft, is one of the few left in the city.
"Fire escapes are an endangered species nowadays, and this one is especially rare," he said.
The storefronts on the Eagle Street have their original casings and once held the offices of Elder Printing that consolidated its operations and moved to Williamstown more than 20 years ago. Marino said the upper floors had been apartments but isn't sure when they were vacated or what other businesses may have operated out of the storefronts.
The building sits near the center of Eagle and its revival has been put forward as a way to prime development along the historic corridor. Former Mayor John Barrett III often raised the notion of a developer turning the building into a boutique hotel to help bring life back to Eagle Street.
Douglas believes her planned renovations will help bring a spark back to the now-struggling street.
"I think it is a great little area," she said. "It's in walking distance to the grocery market, coffee shops and many great restaurants."
Douglas explained that she comes from a construction background and construction does not scare her.
"I am going to have to call in a lot of favors to get this building renovated, and I would love to involve the community in this process because I am going to need help," Douglas said.
Douglas lives in Columbia County, but is familiar with North Adams and the Berkshires. Her family is originally from Massachusetts and her daughter went to college in Bennington, Vt.
"We have been going to Mass MoCA since 2002, and I have spent some time in North Adams," she said. "North Adams is so sweet."
Douglas sees the renovation as a huge project, but is very excited about bringing the building back to life.
"Within a couple of years the building should be done," she said. "That is my pipedream."