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The Farr Building

 

The Farr Building

The Farr Building stands in the heart of Bethlehem, PA as a throwback to the 1920s neoclassical era from which it was born. Erected by the shoe manufacturer, Farr & Company, the 5-story structure was meant to complement the company’s flagship store in Allentown, PA. Offering full-service fittings and selling thousands of pairs per year, the store was one of the largest in the region for decades, but with the rise of cheaper overseas manufacturing and advent of shopping malls and outlet stores, the company began to waiver. After nearly 60 years of operation, the Farr Company was acquired and the Bethlehem store was closed indefinitely. Shuttered and abandoned, the Farr Building was left to the elements.  

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When Ashley Development Corporation acquired the building in 2005, the company made plans for a mixed use space – 24 loft apartments with a retail/restaurant space on the ground floor. Another key goal was to preserve the building’s historic significance, as it is the only example of terra cotta architecture in the Lehigh Valley area. With the 2008 recession, the renovation became entangled with delays and funding issues. The original $7.5 million project was scaled back to about $3.8 million and the developers were looking for ways to cope with the considerable reduction in investment. The main source of expense – refinishing the exterior by replacing old mortar joints, a job suited for only the most skilled masons. This aspect soon became a point of emphasis for the cost-reduction initiative, and the project leaders took to seeking out an alternate solution.

 

SprayStone offered a promising solution. As a high-performance acrylic coating, it would bridge small cracks in the masonry, while the elastomeric properties would allow it to respond adequately to structural movements without cracking. At $5-6/SF, the application would be 10x more affordable than traditional masonry work. Best of all – the finished surface would look and feel exactly like natural stone. Stirling Painting began the project by masking windows and the surrounding area. SprayStone’s limited overspray meant that masking could be kept to a minimum and the team could proceed with the next step – priming. A coat of 100% water-based masonry primer was applied and then followed, as always, by 2 coats of SprayStone.

The installation was completed in 4 short days, leaving the building with a renovated, regal appearance. Local residents, many of whom were away for summer vacation, were astounded to see the completed work upon their return, and shared dozens of pictures and stories about the iconic building that defines the center of their town. Ashley Development Corporations has applied for a Historic Registration of the Farr Building.