- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - The outside is finished. Now, it’s time to focus on the interior.

The Fairmont Creamery, a two-story structure in Lawton’s downtown industrial district, is slowly taking on new life, as owners John and Gayle Rutherford work to restore the facade and interior of what had been a long-dormant creamery, so they can breathe new life into an aging building.

The Rutherfords took a huge step in that journey two weeks ago when their efforts to rehab the outside of the building removed it from the City of Lawton’s nuisance abatement, or D&D;, list. With new windows and secure doors, Rutherford is making plans for exactly what he and his wife want to put inside the cavernous building.

That doesn’t mean he’s finished with the outside.

His work crew continues efforts to build concrete foundations for two stages.

There’s a deadline: May 3, Build a Better Block will open, providing a day of fun for children and adults.

Consider it the “opening act” for the Charlie Christian International Music Festival, slated for Memorial Day Weekend, said Chuck Webber, a member of the Fairmont District Experience Inc., a coalition determined to turn the former creamery into “a destination.”

“We need to embrace the building,” Webber told The Lawton Constitution (https://bit.ly/1bmgJ2p), crediting the Rutherfords for working to “save architectural heritage” and recognizing city officials who have worked with Rutherford to clear the hurdles necessary to remove the building from the D&D; list.

Webber said Rutherford didn’t realize the building was on that list when he bought the property in 2010, explaining Rutherford “saw potential and was not about to let it be destroyed.”

Webber and Rutherford said the idea is to create a retail venue, which is why supporters want to develop the Fairmont District as a destination for retail establishments, restaurants, recreational opportunities and entertainment. Think Oklahoma City’s Bricktown or Cleveland’s The Flats. And, with what is already going on in downtown Lawton, the time is right, Webber said.

“Timing is everything,” Webber told the City Council recently, explaining the city is poised on the edge of expansion, with its new convention center in the downtown revitalization area, discussions about a new mass transit center and plans for a bike path.

Members of The Fairmont District Experience want to keep attention focused on the area, which is why they have planned what Webber calls their premiere event: Build a Better Block. Using the Fairmont Creamery grounds as their venue, the group is planning a day of activities. The children’s events start with a parade that will highlight the bike path that will be located on the west side of the creamery, before moving into other events that will include animals. Then for adults there will be a beer garden and music by local musicians.

Rutherford now has plans for two stages on the west side of the building, creating an outdoor venue suitable to family-friendly events.

Rutherford said he’s been working on the building’s exterior since last summer, cooperating with the city’s neighborhood services division to finish the work that sealed the building from the elements so he could begin converting the interior.

The three-story building had become a deteriorated eyesore in recent years, but remained structurally sound. Rutherford said construction is why, pointing to a cut wall that exposed layers of bricks, concrete blocks and insulation that have withstood time and the shifts of Lawton’s clay soil. It’s why he’s willing to pour money and time into renovating the structure.

“Architecture is our heritage,” he said, noting the importance of retaining what remains of the city’s history.

What to do with that renovated heritage? Rutherford isn’t completely certain. But, he has plans.

For starters, he sees a coffee and doughnut shop on the building’s north side. The room with exposed brick that gives it a retro look now houses the details of construction and a coffee cake for the occasional visitor, but Rutherford sees a comfortable place that serves coffee and freshly baked doughnuts, with a donation jar for visitors.

“Donations, only,” he said, with a grin.

Ultimately, he sees a “granny” time, when older residents of the community will be invited in to serve slices of freshly baked pie, and a jukebox to provide music as a backdrop for conversation.

South of the room is the broad plant floor, now a bare concrete room whose massive pillars support the heavy concrete floor above. The pillars form a natural corridor and Rutherford has a vision of small shops on the east and west sides of the room. Beyond is a loading dock area, now filled with pallets of old bricks, where Rutherford sees a restaurant taking shape. Beyond that is an outside area that can be used for community events; a broad wall would make an ideal surface for a movie screen for community movie nights, he said.

On the second floor - now accessible only by a steep flight of stairs - new windows allow visitors to look across Lawton. Rutherford sees a home on that floor; in fact, he already can pace out the master bedroom, kitchen and his wife’s clothes closet, he said.

Rutherford and Webber said the plans don’t stop with the Fairmont Creamery.

The Fairmont District Experience also has its eye on the building north of the Fairmont, a deteriorating building owned by the city. Members want to clean up the building and a schematic shows the building transformed into another community venue. Webber said it fits into what Experience members say is Phase I: Connecting the creamery to the Rails to Trails bicycle path that city officials plan to create on the nearby abandoned railroad right of way.

Rutherford said it is fitting use for a building that, in its day, was considered “the last word in factory engineering and efficiency,” according to opening day news accounts.

___

Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide