Project DescriptionLocated at the outskirts of downtown Sumter, SC, this neglected warehouse purchased by the Santee Wateree Transportation Authority was considered a neighborhood eyesore. Underutilized as a self-storage facility, the building was a maze of dim makeshift corridors. Windows and doors had been replaced with plywood, wood floors were rotted, and interior plaster was falling from the walls. Watson Tate Savory’s first challenge was to uncover the century old building and, then, to determine what could still be used.
Through archival research at the county museum, WTS was able to provide historically accurate exterior windows, doors, downspouts, and continuous clerestories. Research also revealed the building's significant history as an early twentieth century telephone factory. WTS then worked with the Owner and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in developing all aspects of the design associated with the original building, to ensure the Owner would have the option of potential future National Register listing. An exposed interior steel frame and tension rod system was designed to seismically reinforce existing masonry walls, wood structure and trusses. Original salvaged wood flooring was remilled and reinstalled in public areas. In addition to the main building, a small masonry “Pavilion” in the center of the site and an individual freestanding wall at the edge of the site were preserved to provide a sense of the original factory campus as evident in the archives.
In contrast to the historic structures, elements associated with the building's new function were designed to work in counterpoint to existing elements. A new metal panel entry was designed to reorient the building to the site's interior, replacing corrugated metal siding. A two-story interior precast concrete wall was introduced to tie the original “front door” to the new entry and to modulate between circulation and lobby. Between the entry lobby and the board room, a wood paneled partition was designed as a monumental door, opening the spaces into each other for large public events. Interior storefront was utilized at office space to optimize natural light, and continuous clerestory glass was introduced between offices to maintain a sense of openness. Wherever possible, original masonry was left untouched and original wood was finished with transparent stain. New materials were painted with a palette to both complement and contrast with original materials.