By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Staff Writer PAWTUCKET –
The old basement bowling lanes are being replaced by a state-of-the-art lab and storage vault, the former smoke-filled billiard room is giving way to office space, and the former lounge is pegged as a classy conference room.A former fixture of old-time city life, first for just men and later for mostly men, the To Kalon Club at 26 Main St. is well on its way to becoming a modern-day rehabilitation masterpiece.
Representatives for the Pawtucket-based Public Archaeology Laboratory say the company is scheduled to complete a full reconstruction and modernization of the historic building by September of this year.
The building is in an ideal location for a company that is well known for its work all over New England, they say, with easy access to I-95.
PAL, which purchased the building from the To Kalon Club for $450,000 back in February of 2011, is pouring about $2 million into renovations at the property, remaking it into a stately new headquarters for the company and its 50 employees.
The TK Club, first established in 1867 as a private dining club, was one of the most well known clubs in all of Rhode Island during its heyday. The current building, which was completed in 1911, was home to the elite men’s club for 100 years, serving as a place for members to socialize, drink and conduct business.
The TK Club was once a gathering place for the upper crust of Pawtucket’s middle class. Many of those who would never be accepted into some of the social clubs of Providence found their niche here, according to accounts.
“To Kalon” in ancient Greek means “the good, beautiful, hospitality.”
Stephen Olausen, executive director and senior architectural historian with PAL, as well as a principal in the Pitcher Street Realty LLC that now owns the building, gave The Valley Breeze a tour of the makeover going on inside the historic building.
General contractor E.W. Burman Inc., of Warwick, is making extensive upgrades inside and out, according to Olausen, installing new hardwoods and carpeting where needed, building some new walls and staircases, and completing extensive refurbishment of exterior brickwork, windows and woodwork, among other improvements.
The building’s original slate roof will not be replaced, he said.
“We were happy to be able to save it and we’re happy to save the money,” said Olausen.
Durkee Brown Viveiros Werenfels Architects designed the TK Club restoration project, which will feature a mix of modernized amenities and some of the more well preserved artifacts of the past.
Olausen said that staff at PAL, who are “busting at the seams” in the company’s current location at 210 Lonsdale Ave., had been looking for several years for a new home within Pawtucket’s borders. The TK Club had been on their radar, he said, but interest in the building as a potential landing spot really heated up when the price came down last year.
The Breeze reported in February of 2011 that the TK Club Building Committee had rejected a bid by a group of city politicians and businesspeople to purchase the TK Club for a medical marijuana distribution and education center. The group was among the 18 bidders who submitted applications at the time to operate one of three legal medical marijuana compassion centers in the state.
The TK Club board instead accepted the $450,000 offer from PAL, a lower amount than the $600,000 the owners of the TK Club had been hoping to get for the 13,000-square-foot building.
TK Club representatives had long sought a buyer as membership at the club declined and the costs of upkeep ballooned.
Like many locally, Olausen told The Breeze he and others at PAL weren’t pleased to hear about the pot center proposal.
“The various potential uses concerned us,” he said. “As preservationists, we didn’t want to see Pawtucket do something like that.”
PAL is taking advantage of a federal historic preservation tax credit of 20 percent to redo the TK Club from the basement to the skylight on the third floor, installing all new sprinklers, water and septic pipes, and electricity throughout.
“This place was a fire trap,” said Olausen.
As is fitting for a company that specializes in cultural resource management in such areas as archaeological data recovery and architectural surveys, PAL staff are taking great pains with the general contractor to make sure that history is preserved at the former club.
Many recognizable features, like the grand staircase, the ornate fireplaces and the old benches in the former billiard hall, will remain even as the TK Club transitions into a new era.
Company representatives said last year that the new building is more in keeping with what PAL does than the more modern facility it currently occupies.
PAL is a leading authority in cultural resource management and specializes in terrestrial and marine archeology, architectural history, research and documentation, and preservation planning throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
Since it was founded in 1982, the company has successfully completed more than 1,600 projects in the areas of cultural resource management, historic preservation and planning, and regulatory consultation and compliance for clients that include federal, state and local agencies, non-profit institutions, and developers.
For more on the Public Archaeology Laboratory, visit www.palinc.com.