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‘Relic from a different era’

September 2, 2018

Somerset Inc. Executive Director Regina Coughenour said she was in the group’s new office space in the Scull Building along North Center Avenue when some sunlight caught her eye. She noticed colorful light shining out through some wood near a drop ceiling.

The eye-catching display led to the discovery of antique prismatic glass transoms near the building’s facade.

“They are way more beautiful than we initially imagined,” she said of the windows. “It is completely possible to treasure hunt in Uptown Somerset.”

Coughenour, along with some Somerset Inc. volunteers, is now looking to revamp the building in the hope of attracting a retail tenant. She said the antique windows will be preserved and the drop ceiling will be removed to open up a mezzanine platform.

“What’s amazing about almost all of this stuff is that the removal of it doesn’t cost anything other than our time and energy,” she said.

“We kind of want to spread the word that Somerset has these architectural gems that are covered or hid and are just waiting for the right person to expose them.”

The group moved into the building in May, and, Coughenour said, the project should wrap up by spring. She said that after a tenant is found, Somerset Inc. will look to rehab another historic space for a business. She added that preserving history benefits the local economy.

“It’s not chicken or egg. You have to build a nest,” she said. “You have to have a lot of businesses that are complementary together at the same time.”

Mary S. Biesecker Public Library IT and facilities coordinator Morgan Simmons, a Somerset Inc. volunteer, has been looking into the Scull Building’s history. Simmons said the space can most notably be remembered as a general store. Old newspaper clippings Simmons provided to the Daily American show that the business was called H.C. Beerits’ Sons Store.

“That was the general store back in the ’40s,” he said. “I don’t know exactly when it started or how long it was there, but that was sort of the era.”

The Beerits name is still set in stone on the building along with two dates: 1872 and 1927. Simmons said he doesn’t know for sure, but he assumes the dates are when the store was originally built and then rebuilt after a fire.

Another photo provided by Simmons shows that the space once housed an electric store, Gallagher Electric.

He said that the antique glass was designed to work like a prism in order to spread light around. There were several stores in Chicago that had the glass, he said.

“It’s stuff that you can’t just get off the shelf anymore,” he said. “The glass itself is kind of a relic from a different era.”

Anyone with information about the history of the building can contact Simmons at morgan@maryslibrary.com.

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