1960’s Redesign of 1890’s Building

 

Probably built in the 1890’s, the Merit Building in downtown McCook, Nebraska, went through a radical interior remodeling in the 1960’s.  The redesign converted the basement level into a mini-mall with numerous aluminum and glass storefronts.  The ground floor remained retail and the second floor remained as office space – but each was updated with finishes of the period.  It appears that much of the original storefront’s cast iron components remain, but are concealed behind stucco and tile work.  The original brick exterior was clad in a coarse stucco finish.  The building is distinguished by numerous arched windows on the second story; little else is recognizable from the  original facade.

The 1960’s interiors have been well-maintained through the years and are old enough now to be historic in their own right.  As a veritable time-capsule, the building is a fascinating glimpse into the past.  The quality of the work done was quite good; the aluminum and glass storefronts are especially nice.  Sadly, the building’s future appears grim; few tenants remain and it is rumored that the building may be destroyed.  Hopefully that will not be the case.

Let’s take a look around!

 

 

This display case divides the storefront from the basement entry and allows contents to be viewed from both sides.

 

This is the entry to the basement retail spaces.

 

Entering this place is a bit like time travel!

 

Aluminum, glass and wood paneling characterize the building’s interior… it’s in remarkably good condition!

 

Some doors are fitted with an interesting textured glass… the texture is reminiscent of burlap.

 

The hall widens at its end, creating a jog in this storefront.

 

Stairs to the ground floor are to the right.

 

Looking back to the entry.

 

1960’s tile work in the restroom appears to be in good condition.

 

Now we’ll go up to the main entry.

 

The brushed aluminum lamp over the elevator buttons is one of many similar fixtures throughout.

 

Looks like the stairs were carpeted in the 80’s – fortunately not much else was changed!

 

The handrail has a late Art Deco feel to it… more like the 40’s than the 60’s!  This is just the mezzanine level; we still have a few more steps to climb.

 

Detail of handrail.

 

Let’s go up the rest of the way!

 

Office space lines the hallway.  View is toward the stairs.

 

More vintage tile work in the restrooms.

 

A second mezzanine level!

 

An original window from the interior.  A 1960’s metal balustrade serves as a guard.

 

Detail of window sash.

 

A nearly vacant retail space.

 

Detail of typical door pull.  Now let’s go outside and examine the exterior…

 

The arched windows are the most notable surviving architectural feature.

 

The area at the lower left, a former storefront, was later covered with stucco to match that of the initial remodeling.

 

An original plinth for a pilaster.

 

The pilaster’s capital, covered with stucco.

 

The plinth of the pilaster in the foreground has been replaced with tile work which appears to be from the 1920’s or 30’s, now painted gray.

 

A vent in the 1960’s storefront is nicely detailed with specialty tiles.

 

I love the stainless steel handrail… note the stack bond coursing of the brick.  Could that blue chalkline mark below the handrail really be over 50 years old?  Below is a better photo taken with a flash to highlight the chalk line:

 

That’s what it looks like; a chalk line mark which has survived for more than half a century!

 

The ghost of an original arched window may be seen surrounding an infill of glass block.

 

 

 

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