Cory Vandenberghe and his fiancée, Tia Helfrich, recently made news in the local historic preservation community when they purchased the Schorenstein Garage or Railing Shop in St. Paul—which they visited while on the Dayton’s Bluff Vacant Home Tour. Their goal? To transform the property, which consists of two buildings (a two-story red one built in 1886, and a white-washed low-slung structure built in 1912 as a garage for the Schorenstein Grocery and Saloon), into their new home. To achieve this goal, they’ve hired Michael Anschel, co-founder of Otogawa-Anschel Design + Build in Minneapolis. The project will be Anschel’s third in Dayton’s Bluff. Its challenges are similar to those encountered during the firm’s design of the foodie haven Travail in Robbinsdale. But Anschel is undaunted. “Our reputation is built on tackling unique, challenging spaces,” he says.
What kind of shape are these two buildings in?
They’re in terrible shape! This is definitely a challenging space. It’s not safe for the public to be in there. There isn’t a roof on part of the building, so we have collapsed walls and crumbling structure. It’s dangerous. But we like danger!
So what’s the attraction, for you and the new owners?
A lot of folks love the idea of having a somewhat industrial, somewhat deconstructed warehouse/loft space to live in. For me, personally, there’s something exciting about reaching back through time and making that a part of your home. So many aspects of life today are so polished, so tightly controlled, so engineered. So we’re nostalgic for other eras of industry, in spaces that are looser and feel like nature has taken over and done some of its work on the space.
What’s the first step?
Shoveling! Actually, first we went in took a lot of photographs. We needed to catalog what’s there as evidence for the solutions we proposed and the restoration. We also needed to determine what’s happening structurally so we can develop our structural plan. We’re currently resolving interior design layouts. It’s a big space and we need to make the scale feel human-sized. And we’re in the process of bringing designs to the City of St. Paul that address historical questions and meet structural rebuild requirements. Where those two come together is where a lot of hard work occurs. Once we have those details resolved, we’ll be shoveling out garbage and tearing out crumbling walls.
Will all the hard work be worth the effort?
I hope so. In many ways, projects like this are more satisfying than ones that don’t involve a lot of hard work and thinking. When we built Travail in Robbinsdale, we had to tear down two buildings and underpin the adjacent building to bring in new structure. We were exploring new territory with that project. This is different in that we’re trying to preserve the buildings. The City of St. Paul worked really hard with the homeowner to make funding possible, and the Heritage Preservation Commission has provided lots of guidance. Plus, the homeowners are very hands on. They’re going to feel a lot of satisfaction in taking on something derelict and turning it into a beautiful, safe, and warm home.
Following the project’s process by visiting therailingshop.co.
The derelict building is in terrible shape, but the new owners and builder Michael Anschel welcome the challenge.
Anschel isn't kidding about the shoveling.
By Camille LeFevre
Photos courtesy Otogawa-Anschel