Monday, February 4, 2013
I’m excited to present, my first article printed in the Collegiate Times newspaper!
A historic building is currently being reincarnated as a restaurant downtown.
Former resident Daniel Riley has returned to Blacksburg to buy the Bennett-Pugh house on Main Street, saving it from demolition and its owner, Beverly Taylor, from financial ruin.
Taylor, the former owner of the house, requested to demolish the structure, which she had been trying to sell since 2005. She appealed to town council after the motion was denied by the Historic or Design Review Board.
According to Susan Anderson, Blacksburg Town Council member and Senior Instructor of Mathematics at Virginia Tech, the Bennett-Pugh house is “one of (the) contributing structures in our historic district…people cannot just demolish contributing structures immediately.”
Town Council voted against demolition of the house, requiring Taylor to keep the house on the market.
That is where Riley comes in.
“We were very, very fortunate that Daniel Riley bought the house with the full intention of restoring it and opening a business there,” Anderson said.
Riley, who lived in California for a few years after leaving Blacksburg, bought the house in 2010 for $375,000, with plans to open a restaurant after restoring the 1890s house.
“The old house was nearing eligibility to be demolished,” Riley said. “I thought it would be interesting to save it from demolition and make a nice restaurant for my hometown.”
The house has already gotten a new foundation and before the renovation is complete will have entirely new electrical and plumbing systems.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful home,” Anderson said. “The outside and the inside are certainly in need of some tender love and care, but (it) seemed salvageable.”
Due to Riley’s efforts, the Bennett-Pugh house will retain its familiarity among frequenters of Main Street.
“The goal is to keep (the house) historically accurate,” Riley said.
According to Riley, the architect is making final plans for the house and the rest of the work is scheduled to begin shortly.
Riley is working with local restaurant-owner and friend, Aivey Charoensombut-amorn, to open the restaurant, the Social House Eat and Drink, after renovations.
Charoensombut-amorn will operate the restaurant and does not plan to change the original layout of the house.
“It’s definitely going to be very colorful,” Charoensombut-amorn said, “but we (will) keep everything the way the house (is) supposed to be, because (for) everybody who lives in this town, (it) has a lot of memories.”
Charoensombut-amorn owns the Next Door Bake Shop and Cafe de Bangkok with her sister, but has taken on the Social House Eat and Drink as a project of her own.
“(In) this town, every single restaurant only (has) one kind of cuisine,” Charoensombut-amorn said.
She plans for the menu of the Social House Eat and Drink to feature that of eight different countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, France, America and Italy.
Riley seems very confident in his choice of partner in the project.
“(Charoensombut-amorn) has really great experience in owning and operating restaurants,” Riley said. “I think she’ll do something fantastic with the old house.”
“I think it’s an honor to be able to touch a historic house,” Charoensombut-amorn said. “Not everybody gets a chance to do that. And the location is awesome.”
Though renovations, costing near the selling price of the house, have kept the project from completion for over two years, Riley plans to open the restaurant as soon as possible this year.
“The renovations are expensive, but I’m excited about it,” Riley said. “I think for anybody who takes on a historic building, you have to really love it to want to do it.”