The new owners of the Recreation Building downtown received a $200,000 state grant to help restore the façade of the building.

Todd Carpenter and his wife Carla McQuade applied for the grant through The Dalles Main Street for funding provided by Oregon Heritage, a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Carpenter was thrilled to receive the funding. “I was blown away,” he said. “It’s great for the city, it’s great for the Main Street program, it’s great for the community. It’s going to allow us to do something really nice for the streetside, so we’re definitely excited about it.”

The Dalles Main Street is focused on downtown revitalization, and has won grants for a number of façade and interior building improvements. The grant had a quick turnaround time, Main Street Executive Director Sherry Dufault said, since Carpenter and McQuade only applied in March.

Oregon Heritage awarded 30 grants totaling $5.2 million. The awards ranged from $56,731 to $200,000 and went to projects that best conveyed the ability to stimulate private investment and local economic development.

Carpenter and McQuade will provide a $112,000 local match for the façade project. He said it would take 12-18 months to finish.

Carpenter said the current façade—with its 100-foot-long “recreation” sign—dates to the late 1950s, and behind it are actually three separate buildings dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The building is at 213 E. 2nd St.

The westernmost storefront was once Prinz & Nitschke, established in 1895. Their business, as etched into the stone above the storefront, covered undertaking, carpet and furniture, a common business combination at the time. Next was the In the Horn Saloon, established in 1889. It was home to over 700 taxidermy items, lost in a 1942 fire. The easternmost storefront housed the Grand Theater, established in 1911 and also known as the Empress Theater.

The first step in the façade work will be getting engineering and architectural drawings, Carpenter said.

“We’ll remove the façade and see if there’s any architectural features from the late 1800s, early 1900s,” he said. “If there are, we’ll try to preserve those and sort of tie them in to what we’re doing with the front.”

They’ve started removing the front wall from the inside, and hope to see what they can learn about the façade from that angle. “There’s exterior with sheetrock and tile on it. And there’s interior with sheetrock. We’ve started taking that down to the studs so we can see what the structure is. That’s going to help engineers figure out a game plan,” Carpenter said.

The demolition project—which he hired some local individuals to do—has created about six big dumpsters full of construction debris so far, “and we have more that’s stockpiled and ready to go,” he added.

Carpenter and McQuade also own the adjacent Last Stop Saloon, which was previously the Vault. That was a much larger rehab project, a complete replacement that included new plumbing and wiring.

But they don’t have those issues in the Recreation Building. There, the biggest issue is the roof, and he’s had a roofer out to determine if it needs repair or replacement.

Carpenter has several ideas for the Recreation sign itself. One is putting it on the back side of the building and relighting as a draw for freeway traffic. Another is displaying it in the space that now houses the bowling alley.

In the last iteration of the Recreation building, before it was shut down, there was the bowling alley at the westernmost area, an event area in the center and the Dam Sports Bar on the east. In the basement was an archery range and more bowling lanes.

Carpenter and McQuade have a number of plans for the 30,000 square feet contained in the three previous buildings.

One firm plan is creating what they’ve called Merchants Landing, a name their neighbor came up with, which would house space for home-based artists and vendors to sell their products.

They hope to have that space, in the easternmost section of the building, open by September.

They’ve made some finds in the building as during demolition, and they aren’t throwing anything away they think someone might be interested in. They plan to auction the items off and donate the proceeds.

The middle space, which may become three individual retail shops of 800 to 1,500 square feet each, with individual entrances, would be finished next, and then the bowling alley area last.

The middle part of the building is two stories. Currently the entire upper floor houses a boiler, which will be removed to make retail or living space.

As for the downstairs space, Carpenter is kicking around the idea of a maker’s space or craft area for families. “We want to give back to the community,” he said.

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