Ferdinand Mercantile Undergoes Dramatic Rehab
Ferdinand native Keith Fritz spent three years transforming a previously characterless late nineteenth century commercial building into a dramatic living and gathering space.
With its faded painted walls, exposed brick, warm-hued poplar flooring, luxurious furnishings, and eclectic art, a commercial building on Ferdinand’s Main Street looks like something transplanted from New York City or San Francisco. Ferdinand native Keith Fritz, furniture designer and owner of Fritz Fine Furniture, spent the better part of the past three years transforming the previously characterless late nineteenth century commercial building into a dramatic living and gathering space.
Built in 1886 for John Henry Beckmann, general merchant and dealer in clover seed and produce, the building was known as the New Farmers Store and served as a hub of local commerce. Subsequent owners maintained a mercantile presence, but they removed the building’s handsome pressed metal façade. Additional changes to the façade in the 1960s and later covered the original storefront and second floor windows, robbing the building of its architectural dignity.
“A huge wooden canopy and a blank upper story belie the rich history that the building played in the community,” explains Greg Sekula, Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Director. “It took someone like Keith Fritz to recognize the potential and develop the vision.”
Indiana Landmarks awarded an Efroymson Family Endangered Places grant in 2019 to non-profit Great Towns, Inc., to assess rehabilitation needs and develop an adaptive reuse plan for the two-story frame structure. We provided further technical assistance as Fritz developed the building.
In January, guests saw Fritz’s vision on full display at a community open house celebrating the transformation. Dubbed The New Farmers Store, the building is now an elegant residential space decorated with custom furnishings designed by Fritz as well as antiques and art by local artists.
Fritz hopes to entertain in the ground floor space and showcase some of his latest furniture designs. The upstairs 3,000 square-foot loft, available for rent as an Airbnb, holds guest accommodations with views of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception.
The stylish makeover renewed interest in local heritage, inspiring local officials to hire preservation consultant Kurt Garner to nominate much of Ferdinand’s original town plat to the National Register of Historic Places in hopes that The New Farmers Store and additional attention will attract others to invest in Main Street.
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