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Building reborn

August 22, 2008
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - In 1884, the green building at 130 W. Baraga Ave. in Marquette was a saloon.

In the 1890s it was a hotel, in 1904 a meat shop, then a dwelling, laundry facility, automobile shop, window and electric company, refrigerator shop and since 1980 Cleary's boat and motor company.

This fall, the building will house a flower shop, and it will be a model for recycling, reuse and green renovation.

Article Photos

Mike Potts sits on top of the counter he built that consists of recycled wainscotting at his house at 130 W. Baraga Ave., that he is currently remodeling. In the background are beams from the old Lasco building, which is now L’Attitude. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)

"It's going from the most polluted place to a green flower shop," said property owner Mike Potts, who saved the structure from being torn down and is remodeling it from the ground up.

Filled with 300 outboard motors, 20,000 pounds of scrap metal and as much garbage, buckets and barrels filled with old motor oil, gasoline and other chemicals - with spills everywhere - it was not surprising that other buyers wanted to tear the place down. The stuff accumulated over 26 years, while previous owner Bill Cleary repaired boat motors at the location.

Potts cleaned out the building and began construction, reusing beams from the old Lasco building, which is now L'Attitude on Lakeshore Boulevard, as well as old radiators and prism windows from Doncker's Candy Store.

Potts also reused wainscotting - that he had collected over the years from his work as a contractor - in the inside and outside of the building.

"I've been saving stuff for years," Potts said, describing how people would laugh at him that he would not throw away anything that could at some point be reused somewhere else. "It's the right thing to do."

The renovated building will feature Potts' wife's flower store on the first floor and an apartment on the second floor. Potts has kept the renovations as green as possible with high-energy efficiency windows and heat system.

He used American clay plaster for the walls (a product that uses natural clay with no volatile organic compounds) as well as cork and recycled wood floors and low-flush toilets.

Part of the floors will be covered with Marmoleum, which is a natural linoleum, made from ingredients such as linseed oil, cork, limestone, tree rosin and natural minerals. Potts said his green building supplier in Ohio has given him a discount on the material to show it off as a green product.

Potts said he remembers the old house since he was a kid and he has a connection to it.

"I've always liked the building," he said.

The 2,600 square-foot building is said to have been constructed in 1850 and supposedly was one of the only wooden buildings that survived the 1868 fire that was perhaps the biggest fire in the Upper Peninsula's history. It wiped out more than 100 buildings in Marquette and ruined nearly all of the city's written records.

Carol Watt of Marquette remembers the building on Baraga Street because her grandfather George A. Wood used to operate a car repair shop there.

"I just remember going down there after school and seeing my grandpa," she said.

Watt checked out the renovations recently and she said she is excited what is being done with the building and happy it did not get torn down.

"It's wonderful," she said.



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