Maplewood History: Recently Displaced (continued)

It is wonderful to see the Cape-Harper building reawakening. Walking by a few nights ago the lights had been left on in the Harper pharmacy space, I was struck by the ambience of the scene.

What with the recent work to the Maplewood Loop (the original name), the integration of the historic streetcar shelter into our new park and the bubbling rock, when the Cape-Harper building is finished this will be one of the finest retail locations in the City of Maplewood.

As a preservationist, I’ll miss the transom windows and serpentine marble from the front of the Harper’s Pharmacy. However, I realize this is a tradeoff to get this building up and running and producing income again.

Any of you who saw the building at night with the lights on in the newly renovated space know how dramatic a sight it was. Now just imagine that the cabinets were still in that space. It would be positively mind blowing. The only trade off with the cabinets should have been to allow the ones that once blocked a clear view into the interior to be installed elsewhere in the building. The cabinets along the walls on both sides should absolutely have been kept.

All most of the cabinets needed was a good cleaning and polishing. A few may have needed to be reglued. Cabinets and furniture of that age were held together by hide glue, an animal-based product. This glue dries out over the decades and the pieces may come apart at the joints. It is still readily available and easy to work with. Applied hot, it sets as soon as it cools and dissolves in water which makes it readily reversible.

Because it dissolves in water, the pieces of the cabinets stored in damp locations (the basement for example) may fall apart. They are easily reassembled. Please, Mr. Schlafly, take appropriate steps to protect them.

The serpentine marble should also be stored on site. It won’t dissolve in water. It’s a million years old already. Keep those stored for the next owner and I’ll make sure the library has photos so he can tell where each piece of marble was originally. (Actually I’ve already done this).

As for the loss of the transoms, I’ll never complain. The way those new large windows opened up the interior of the building to the light was worth a few transoms especially if they someday allow the passersby to ogle the superb, ornate cabinetry of the Harper’s Pharmacy.

Harper's Photo, probably in the 1970's.  The drive-up window for film drop off can be seen at right.  Photo courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Harper’s Photo, probably in the 1970’s. The drive-up window for film drop off can be seen at right. Photo courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

It is a truly wonderful sight to see the lights on again as the building is reborn.

It is a truly wonderful sight to see the lights on again as the building is reborn.

The Harper's Pharmacy space could be powerful for retail.

The Harper’s Pharmacy space could be powerful for retail.

The ceiling and floor have been retained and thoroughly restored.  Terrific!

The ceiling and floor have been retained and thoroughly restored. Terrific!

This Photoshopped version gives an idea of how dramatic that space could have been and hopefully someday will be again.

This Photoshopped version gives an idea of how dramatic that space could have been and hopefully someday will be again.

17 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Recently Displaced (continued)

  1. Joe B here My Grandmother told me long ago that the Maplewood and Wellston loops were the places to shop, Easy access by street car and later buses, I lived in Maplewood in a 1895 3 story victorian near Immaculate Conception church, I was to early for the revival,Glad they or someone is shapeing up Sutton Ave.Im in Maplewood at least Once a week for food, drink and general entertainment. Lets Eat Art was awsome, My thanks to the maplewood city council for being so proactive

    • Joe,
      The Maplewood City Council is very proactive in many things, however, Let Them Eat Art is an project of the Special Business District Advisory Commission, funded by a special tax that businesses in the district pay, and led by Rachelle L’Ecuyer, who is Director of Community Development for the City of Maplewood. Rachelle and the board are to be applauded for many of the the “curb appeal” improvements and activities that have enhanced Maplewood.
      Having said that, I believe the Sutton Park improvements may be a City Council project and kudos are in order for that project as well.

  2. Thank you for using your gifts to help us illuminate our past and inform our present and future. What a treasure Maplewood has in you!

  3. Guess I am a purist, as I would have preferred the transom windows be restored.

  4. Thanks so much, Doug, for your attention to this very attractive building. I also love your photoshopping! We don’t have to just imagine how the cabinets would look.
    Margaret Siegel

  5. Hi Doug, a while ago we were talking about glues and since you mentioned hide glues here I’ll add a bit more about them. Hot hide glue is still used and very effective, however it’s a very messy, smelly, prolonged process using it and working time is very brief. Liquid hide glues such as
    Titebond’s offer the same strength and benefits of hot glue, but none of the mess and nuisances. I’ve used them in piano restoration and anything else I want to be able to disassemble with excellent results. Veneering is an exception and hot glue is still used for this, but again, be prepared for a mess and work fast. I’ve found far easier to use products though for veneering and use them as often as possible. These include a double sided adhesive contact sheet that’s extensively used in furniture factories and new contact cements made specifically for veneering (not the old contact cements used for Formica). These products only require very careful placement of the veneer because once they touch down onto the substrate that’s where the veneer is going to stay. Gary Tash

    • Mr. Tash’s advice is sound. His creations and restorations are marvels. A copy of his comment should be taped to the back of each of the Harper’s cabinets.

  6. Those are great pictures…..thanks for them and the article. It does this old heart good to see the great changes coming about. I love the little park and the fountain there now too.

  7. I spoke with the building owner David Schlafly today. He said the cabinets will be used by both Bridges and Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions. He also said he has lots of submissions for the building-naming contest, which includes the entire building, from the Sierra Club to Bolyard’s, but hasn’t picked one out yet.

    • Doug, thank you very much for this information. If the cabinets remain in the complex (it’s three buildings in my mind or at least two) there is a chance however slight that they’ll someday be repatriated to their original positions.