After nearly a century as an iron castings plant in Wisconsin, the C.A. Lawton Co. General Machine and Foundry Shop faced demolition in the early 1990s. And then, just three weeks before the wrecking ball was scheduled for duty, came a reprieve.
The Alexander Co., a historical preservation and urban development firm, scooped up the sprawling brick structure in DePere, Wis., and set about preserving the foundry's historical features by converting the existing building into an apartment complex.
Built in 1880, the foundry shop served its original purpose for the C.A. Lawton Co. until 1971. During the 1980s, the city of DePere slated the downtown area, including the foundry, for redevelopment and revitalization. According to the Wisconsin Main Street Program–a statewide effort to promote historic preservation–a small work force from Lawton remained downtown, using the foundry as office space until it closed up shop for good in 1990.
Years later, the abandoned Lawton site attracted a slew of developers, but most had plans to demolish the deteriorating structure and hammer out a new building. Eventually, the structure was slated for the wrecking ball several times.
Enter the Alexander Co. After being spared from destruction, the Lawton Foundry buildings were renovated into 69 one- and two-bedroom flat-style apartments and townhomes, ranging in size from 600 square feet to more than 1,000 square feet. About 18 of the housing units are market-rate. Each residence has its own unique floor plan. The Alexander Co. preserved much of the structure's historical flair, including the building's brick exteriors and interiors. In fact, the front of the building still features the original Lawton Foundry sign and façade.
According to the Alexander Co., the cost of redeveloping the Lawton Foundry was at about $7.5 million. The structure–which reopened for residential use in 1993–is listed on the state and National Register of Historic Places.
–Abby Garcia Telleria is a freelance writer in Costa Mesa, Calif. Know of a landmark apartment property?
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