The Beardmore Block in Priest River continues its phoenix-like rise from metaphorical ashes in garnering another award—this time the Grow Smart Award from Idaho Smart Growth. The award language says the Beardmore “incorporates historic preservation, downtown revitalization, and sustainable green building practices in an existing town center” and “illustrates that communities can adapt to new demands and preserve their historic treasures while providing sustainable economic revitalization.” The building also received the Grand Award for Adaptive Re-Use at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference last summer.
The Beardmore Block was commissioned in 1922 by Charles Beardmore, Bonner County’s largest employer at the time and owner of the St. Elmo Hotel, the local lumber mill, and the stage line. Upstairs, it housed apartments, meetings rooms, and business offices, while downstairs were Beardmore’s company store and other retail operations. These included the Kaniksu Drugstore and the People’s Market, which had the latest refrigeration technology at a time when most perishables were kept cool by ice harvested from ponds. At one end of the block was the Rex Theatre, where silent movie heartthrob Nell Shipman premiered her latest film, “The Grubstake,” a week after the building’s grand opening in 1923.
The restoration was performed by the original builder’s great-grandson, Brian Runberg, a Seattle architect who spent summers at Priest Lake as a child with his grandmother Vivienne Beardmore McAlexander. He and his siblings used to play hide-and-seek in the building, which was then but a crumbling remainder of their great-grandfather’s once-proud legacy.
Runberg’s renovations included rebuilding all the windows with thermal glass; installing insulation, energy efficient light fixtures, and solar panels; and reconstructing the roof to drain to a cistern the basement. The water thus collected meets all the building’s nonpotable water needs, including those of the original toilets, which have been “reporcelainized” to use less water. The result is one of very few buildings in the country to have LEED gold certification and be on the National Register of Historic Places.
In its new incarnation, the Beardmore Block once again houses offices upstairs—now those of an engineering firm and an accountant, among others, and downstairs is a popular wine bar called Noni next door to a juice bar and spa. It is hoped that the Beardmore renaissance will spark a concomitant rebirth in Priest River, which has been plagued by recent mill closures and resulting high unemployment.
Idaho Smart Growth is a Boise-based nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that promotes management of growth and development to create healthy communities, retain open space, and prevent suburban sprawl. Every year it presents Grow Smart awards to projects throughout the state. Sandpoint’s Park Cottages received one of the first such awards in 2005, and Coeur d’Alene’s Meadow Ranch neighborhood also won an award this year.