Restoring the Lone Star Building

posted 8.4.10

You’ve heard the old saying, “If walls could talk, the stories they could tell.” That’s because every building has a unique story. This is certainly true of the building located at the northeast corner of Silo Park, known by area residents as the Lone Star Building. If this 90-year-old structure could talk, it would tell you some amazing stories.

Constructed in 1920, with a lower addition added in 1928, the building served as the administrative headquarters for the Superior and later the Lone Star Portland Cement companies.

This enterprise was once the largest manufacturer of cement in the State of Washington and one of the largest in the country. This industrial juggernaut greatly influenced the development of the Town of Concrete and the region. Along with an electrical-generation building and the massive cement silos, the office building is the last remaining structure of what once was a 10-acre manufacturing complex.

Superior cement went into many of the building projects in Washington and across the Country. Cement from the Superior plant was used in the building of the Ballard Locks, Grand Coulee Dam, Rock Island Dam, and many of the airstrips in the Pacific during World War II. Superior cement also was used to construct the three dams on the Skagit River—Ross, Diablo, and Gorge—as well as the Baker Dam on the Baker River and the Henry Thompson Memorial Bridge, which in 1918 was the longest single-span cement bridge in the world.

With its unique design, the Lone Star Building exemplifies a pared-down version of Mission Revival architecture; the structure has been on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List since 2006. During the April 2009 Imagine Concrete community visioning workshops, many residents expressed their desire to restore this historic edifice.

There are many reasons to restore and preserve the Lone Star Building. First and foremost is that it has been, and can continue to be, a highly visible, recognizable, and historic area landmark. Restoring the 90-year-old building will help preserve a significant piece of local history. Restoration of a building with so much historical significance for this area will provide the community with a permanent, recognizable, and usable asset.

“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us,” Winston Churchill once said. By reclaiming the past to help build a healthy viable future, the Lone Star Building can become a source of civic pride, and, when shared with others traveling to and through the area, it can help stimulate heritage tourism; that is, give people a reason to stop: It will help make Concrete a destination. Further, it can aid with economic development by demonstrating to prospective businesses and residents an example of community pride and a desire to improve Concrete’s built environment.

During a workshop held on April 26, 2010, which included the Concrete Town Council, Planning Commission, Imagine Concrete Steering Committee, and members of the community, the best utilization of the building was determined to be housing Town Government, Chamber of Commerce, Visitor-Tourism Center, Community Library, and possibly a University Extension office.

Since that April meeting, further conversations and restoration planning has continued. In one conversation, the Upper Skagit Library District expressed interest in joining with the Town of Concrete in the restoration project. A project plan has been developed by the Lone Star Task Force.

The project is to perform historical restoration of the structure and refurbish the interior to its original design. The first step in the project involves removing decades of debris from the building and ensuring the structure is weatherproof. The next step entails completing a historic structure assessment of the building and completing design and construction documents for its rehabilitation.

The historic structure assessment will provide a roadmap for future rehabilitation work, better defining the building’s needs. Construction documents for the core and shell of the building will allow for adequate cost estimates to be prepared. Further steps will involve actual rehabilitation of the core and shell of the building.

The completion of this project will provide a much-needed space for the community.

Second clean-up day scheduled
A second Lone Star Building clean-up day is scheduled for Aug. 15, beginning at 8 a.m. at the Lone Star Building, located at 45418 Main St., Concrete (just east of the skate park). Community members are invited to join the effort, and should bring gloves, a particle mask, sturdy shoes, and eye protection. A scoop shovel and wheelbarrow also are helpful. For more information call Concrete Town Hall at 360.853.8401.

Lone Star Workshop
On Aug. 31, a Lone Star Building workshop will be held at 6 p.m. at the Concrete High School Commons. All are welcome to attend.

Eric N. Archuletta, M.A., is the founder of Community Stew, an organization dedicated to helping communities and people achieve their visions and goals.

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