By Cindy Barks for The Daily Courier
Almost three months after fire destroyed three businesses on Prescott’s historic Whiskey Row, the boarded up storefronts still attract attention from passers-by on the street.
The community feels affection for the 1903 structure and the three businesses – Pearl’s Place, the Birdcage Saloon, and the Prescott Food Store – that burned in a May 8 fire. And early on, everyone hoped that the front façades could be salvaged.
But an inspection by a local structural engineer later determined that the fire damage was too great. That damage, coupled with other structural issues, led to the conclusion that the front wall must come down.
Demolition work will get started within the next week or so.
Meanwhile, work also is under way on the building next door, which housed the Jenny Longhorn and Bead-It stores in the lower level, and 16 guestrooms in the upper level.
While the fire and smoke damage caused the closure of the stores, as well as the displacement of the 17 people who were living in the Grand Highland Hotel guestrooms, Nancy Hinson said the lower level should be ready for occupation again by fall.
Work also is in progress on the restoration of the upstairs rooms, which once served as the Grand Hotel.
Although the details of the new construction at the burned-out site have yet to be finalized, the owners Howard and Nancy Hinson say they are determined to rebuild. They have been working with local architect Bill Otwell, who is guiding the repair and restoration, and developing plans for the new construction.
On Friday, Otwell said the project was a “unique opportunity to build an infill project on Whiskey Row with a possible pedestrian connection through to the alley.”
Noting that the building that burned had been reconstructed through the years, Otwell said, “The building itself is not historic; it’s has been modified so many times.”
So, while the new building will use similar materials and be similar in scale to other buildings on Whiskey Row, Otwell said it likely would not be a replica of what was there before.
“That’s the fine line we walk when we do infill design in a historic neighborhood,” said Otwell, who has decades of experience in historic preservation architectural work throughout the Southwest. “We want it to be new, but compatible.”
Although the Hinsons say any completion goal for the new building would be merely a guess, they both were hopeful that the project could be done within a year of the May 8 fire.
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