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Prominent Independence building helps with downtown revival

May 10, 2016

This is the first of a series of posts about this year’s Oregon Heritage Excellence Award winners.

Built in 1895, the J.S. Cooper Block is the key architectural feature in Independence’s historic downtown. Its owner was a prominent banker who later became a key figure in the region’s booming hop industry, which eventually led the city of Independence to be named the “hop capital of the world.”

Despite its storied history, a series of remodels replaced the Cooper Block’s historic storefronts with dark, bunker-like walls and windows. Two storefronts were completed bricked over. For many years an absentee landlord declared tenants to be a hassle.

Two years ago that all changed. A local developer Florin Drutu bought the J.S. Cooper Building. With the help of another local developer and Central High School graduate Bodie Bemrose, they began to return the building at Main and C streets it to its glory look.

Using grants from the City of Independence and the State Historic Preservation as well as their own funds, they restored the building’s façade. Brick was repointed, and windows were repaired and restored.

The original steel columns of the C Street storefronts were found, enabling the original storefronts to be replicated. Historic photographs enabled an accurate representation of the Main Street storefront to be created.

Ninety percent of the building’s 30-foot-long , 2-by-12 inch joints had to be replaced with beams that were milled to true 2-by-12 inch dimensions.

Once again, the Cooper Block is alive. The three commercial spaces on the first floor are filling. Apartments and offices on the second floor are filled.

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