From The Memphis Commercial Appeal: Price high to preserve Anderton’s East on Madison
By Cassandra Kimberly,
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Dick Leike knew he had a challenge when his residential real estate company bought the former Anderton’s East restaurant on Madison last year.
Preserving the original structure at 1901 Madison wasn’t going to be easy, but keeping the historical nature of the building would mean a lot to Memphians and the neighborhood, he said.
“We feel like we’re doing good for the neighborhood … and trying to do it in such a way that we don’t change the real architectural design of the building,” said Leike, co-founder of Crye-Leike Realtors.
Doing good has come at a price for the company — a “couple million” dollars in fact. From day one, efforts to save a piece of Memphis’ history have been complicated by a series of misfortunes.
The company found the kitchen had rusted-out over the many years of serving oysters and the wooden roof needed to be replaced. Asbestos filled the ceiling.
But those things were not surprising, considering it is a 70-year-old building, Leike said.
To compound the problems, thieves have raided the old building for its copper wiring and vandals busted in glass doors and marked the walls with graffiti.
Then the biggest blow came Feb. 5, when tornadoes ravaged the Mid-South. The storms caused the wooden roof to cave in, taking the wave-like ceiling inside with it.
Today, three walls and a broken concrete floor are the only pieces of Anderton’s left on the Madison site.
“That storm wiped out anything worth saving inside,” Leike said. “The saving grace is the beautiful tile.”
Crye-Leike is determined to preserve it, he said.
Anderton’s East, which opened in 1956, was known for its unique design and d?cor.
When the restaurant closed its doors at the end of 2005, the insides were gutted and sold leaving only the building’s shell behind.
Anderton’s old boat-shaped bar, its iron chandeliers and its oyster shucker, Chuck Williams, now have a home at The Cove bar on Broad.
But even the “saving grace” of the building, which the Memphis Fire Department has deemed “structurally unsound,” has caused a slight setback. If the original, seafoam-green terra cotta is damaged, Anderton’s is history.
“The materials that make up that existing facade are no longer available, so we’re having to be real careful as far as the design in using those existing materials,” said project designer Jack Rainey of Rainey Contract Design. “It’s not like the terra cotta that you and I think of today.”
Rainey said he has been working to find building materials that would not only match the original facade but also reinforce the existing exterior to “fill in” the entryways along Madison.
“The side that faces Madison would actually be the rear of the new building,” he said.
Designs are still in the works, but the vision is to create a 12,000-square-foot Class A office building using the existing walls. Crye-Leike plans to move its Midtown offices from Union to the new site when the renovations are scheduled to be complete at the end of 2009.
Before the storm, the company was able to preserve a large piece of stained glass bearing Anderton’s name, which will be incorporated into a conference room, Rainey said. Photos of the restaurant will line the wall, and a new entrance will adjoin the 35,000-square-foot parking lot to the building.
Putting a historic property to use is a new venture for Crye-Leike, and the efforts have not gone unnoticed, said June West, executive director of Memphis Heritage.
“I think the fact that the significant component of that building is the facade and maintaining the integrity of that faade will keep the place that we have known for the last 75 years,” she said. “Even with modern materials inside, you still have the continuity of what was there. Dick Leike needs to be given an award for what he’s done.”
Contact Cassandra Kimberly at 529-2786.