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Downtown building gets new owner, new look

October 12, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Waynesboro landmark is receiving a fresh facade and interior renovations with the intention of drawing commercial tenants downtown.

The three-story former Beck & Benedict Hardware building has stood at 86 W. Main St. for more than 100 years. Edward Beck and Daniel Benedict opened the business in 1900.

Dick and Della Boscherts ran the building as a hardware store, music hall, antique mall and glass repair shop from 1984 to January 2000 under the Beck & Benedict name.

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Over the years, the Boscherts created a mecca for bluegrass musicians and their fans in their Friday Night Jams, which drew regular crowds from across the Tri-State area.

The building was then owned by a Smithsburg businessman, Joe Daniels, owner of Specialized Contracting Inc., a building and home-improvement company.

Last spring, Craig Mahrle of Lutherville, Md., purchased the property from Daniels.

"I have an affinity for these old buildings," Mahrle said.

Mahrle said he bought the huge building as an investment. With help from contractors and other workers, he is renovating the upper floor apartments; a two-bedroom and a four-bedroom apartment occupy each of the upper two floors. The second floor also has some commercial space.

Mahrle, 36, said he has renovated some single-family row houses in Baltimore, which he resold.

"I've never done anything this large," he said.

He learned the renovation and restoration trade by doing it; his professional background is in programming and actuarial.

"I couldn't do the cubicle life, I got bored with it," he said, while showing a visitor around.

The original tin ceilings remain in the vast front room of the former hardware store. He has not begun work on the downstairs, as he intends to renovate it to the needs of a commercial tenant.

"I'm looking for a tenant who is looking for a good downtown Main Street location," he said.

The main room has a lot of glass out front, with deep show windows. The space could be divided into multipurpose areas, as it was for a time when Daniels owned the building, Mahrle said.

Workers are replacing electric and plumbing in the apartments and putting in new heat and air conditioning, new kitchens and new windows.

"I have no idea when it will be done," he said.

Workers removed 7 1/2 tons of debris from the upper floors, he said.

"Half of it was the old radiators, and there were some unusable cast iron bathtubs and carpeting."

The building, which stretches from Main Street to an alley in the rear, covers more than 40,000 square feet on four floors, including the cavernous basement, which has a drive-in opening at the back and an entrance from the side.

The back of the building once housed Wayne Manufacturing Co., a textile plant.

Mahrle has faith in Waynesboro's shopping area.

"The downtown is pretty nice. They're doing a lot to restore the character of the buildings," he said.

Property owners have gotten some help in restoring the facades, thanks to Waynesboro's facade grant program, according to Jim Fisher, a member of the borough's Design Review Committee, which reviews and approves applications from property owners.

"(The grants) are one of many things we're doing to try to revive the downtown," Fisher said. "It funnels money received from state or federal government to individual property owners performing restoration or improvements on the fronts of their buildings."

Mahrle plans to keep the current historical look of the Beck & Benedict facade, and to replace the rotten wood and the flaking green paint. The grant will help him do that; it pays for 50 percent of work up to maximum of $10,000.

Repairing the facade of the Beck & Benedict building could cost as much as $14,000, Fisher said.

The Beck & Benedict grant is the 16th the program has made in its two years of existence.

"It's making a difference on the street, particularly if you know where to look," he said. The grants may be used for repairs, repainting, windows, signs, awnings, cleaning masonry or anything that improves the front of a building, he said.

The renovations to the old hardware store are "a very happy development. I hope he succeeds in what he's trying to do there. It's a nice-looking building," Fisher said.

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