Old Factory Complex

An Historic Renovation

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Lots of planning and even more elbow grease allowed the one-time commercial hub of Anguilla to regain some of its former glory.

Unfortunately, the economic boom that sped through Anguilla from 2004 through 2008 bypassed and neglected many of our historic buildings, one of which was the Old Factory in The Valley. As Colville Petty (Anguilla’s well respected resident historian) wrote “Over the years, I watched with sadness the demise of the remains of the Old Factory…Such abuse is most demeaning to an institution which dominated Anguilla’s physical, economic and social landscape throughout the first half of the twentieth century.”

When I clairvoyantly signed my master lease for the Old Factory in August 2008, I was sure my move was clear sighted—the economy was booming, and I needed more space for my real estate office as well as a few other ventures I wanted to pursue (opening a bistro and art gallery, for instance).  However, by the end of September 2008, my clairvoyance began to appear myopic as the economic good times ground to a halt—nonetheless, my renovation focus remained consistent as I pursued the restoration I had initially envisioned (perhaps illogically economically but quite rationally emotionally).

The property I took over (sadly, without taking photos) comprised two buildings: the historic Old Factory and the Annex. In turn, the Old Factory was composed of an original stone cellar (boasting walls of medieval-castle thickness) and a boxy later-year addition of a concrete single-storey storage area (boasting nothing much). As noted, all of those major components were in dire straits. Extensive roof repairs were needed, leaks and seepage had to be found and stopped, all glass windows had to be replaced, pests had to be controlled, the residue left behind by the fried chicken fast food joint that ungraciously held occupancy for a while had to be detoxified, floors had to be refinished, and appropriate spaces for my envisioned businesses were to be created – all in all, a handful.

I began with the exteriors, initially the roofs.  On the Annex, I built a new galvanized hip roof studded above and directly over the existing galvanized roof, as I was concerned that removing the original metal would strain the wood walls too much. Happily, the ceiling was wood clad, so the rusty galvanization wasn’t visible from inside the building. On the original section of the Old Factory, we removed and replaced only a few panels – the structure was in surprisingly good shape, as synthetic panels had been used to replace the original galvanized ones before I took possession. The most innovative roof work was creating a galvanized hip roof over the flat roof of the boxy later-year addition, setting it in visual synch with the roofs of the Old Factory and Annex. We built a roof on a roof, rafting out a hip roof that we then covered with galvanized metal for streetscape homogeneity. The last roof built spanned the uncovered area between the Old Factory and The Annex to create a shaded seating area for the envisioned bistro. Thereafter, exterior wall work began. In addition to scraping and patching and painting the existing walls, we built traditional wooden West-Indian style window and door shutters to reinforce the historic aspects of the building, all of which we painted in colorful pastels to differentiate the trim from the shutter centers. Finally, externally, we brought in large pots filled with various plants to add color and life to the complex.

We then moved inside to create within a viable restaurant and boutique space and to fashion within the Old Factory a viable office and gallery space. As for the Annex, a kitchen was nestled into the eastern section; a service area was created in the western section; a boutique was tweaked into the center area. In the Old Factory, IM Pei’s Louvre Glass Pyramid inspired the construction of desk dividers made from treated 4×4 lumber, mahogany plywood and glass so that the divider’s construction reinforced the look of the building’s heavy studs and wood cladding yet felt light and airy.  This visual reinforcement was carried into my private office, located in the former kitchen of the fried-chicken joint. After removing layers of grease-encrusted tile, I used the same 4x4s and mahogany plywood to create walls and cover them for replicated authenticity In the stone cellar, water was the primary problem — every time it rained, the cellar flooded. After numerous trials (recaulking the windows, raising door thresholds, etc) we realized the water was seeping through the northern wall, so we poured a floor on a floor to cap the cracks and established a dry zone perfectly suited for displaying art. We then focused on the boxy later-year addition, which was (once again) the most challenging space with the least historic appeal. Essentially, we followed the design concept of the original buildings, again using 4×4 lumber and mahogany plywood in order to create three sided suites to showcase additional art offerings.

In the end, the finished product is a space of which I’m proud not only for the value generated for my business but (just as importantly) for the value garnered to Anguilla in general and to The Valley in particular. Not only does The Old Factory complex hold the noble heritage Mr. Petty attributed to it, but it is also the gateway to our downtown, and its renovation was a moral and emotional boost for one and all.

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