New plan emerges for historic Blacksburg house
The longer you wait to eat a good meal, the better the food tastes.
For Daniel Riley, who returned home to Blacksburg about two years ago to establish a casual restaurant and bar in the old Taylor Frame house, opening day will be delicious indeed — even if the menu is not the same one he started out with.
Riley, a former banker in California, bought the house at 103 S. Main St., in the downtown commercial and historic district for $375,000, with plans to save the historic house from demolition by opening an upscale casual regional foods restaurant and bar there. He estimated that renovations of the building would cost an additional $350,000.
But extensive structural problems proved more expensive than expected, and the pace of the project slowed considerably. While structural repairs were completed, the expansion was scrapped. Despite the setbacks, last December Riley still planned to open a smaller-scale restaurant in the building.
But since then, he and Blacksburg restaurateur Aivey Charoensombut-amorn have teamed up and have formulated a new plan. Rather than develop and run the restaurant himself, Riley said on Monday that he will rent the space to Charoensombut-amorn for a venue she plans to develop called Social House Eat and Drink.
Charoensombut-amorn called her concept for the new restaurant “modern comfort food.”
The menu will likely have international influences, she said, although the details are still being developed.
Charoensombut-amorn is already an owner and operator of two established Blacksburg eateries, Cafe de Bangkok that opened in 2006 on Jackson Street and Next Door Bake Shop that opened in 2010 on Turner Street.
The pair hope to open Social House Eat and Drink “as soon as possible in 2013,” Riley said.
Before the new restaurant opens, Riley will upgrade the building’s electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling infrastructure. Construction is expected to begin in the new year.
When he’s done, Riley hopes it will look like nothing has been touched. Inside and outside, “the house will remain as people have always known it,” Riley said.
The driving purpose behind the plan, after all, was saving the circa-1900 building, known in historic building circles as the Bennett-Pugh House.
“It’s the oldest remaining example of residential architecture left on Main Street,” Riley said.
But the white clapboard house with the little picket fence is better known to town residents as the old Taylor Frame house, after the Taylor family, which ran a framing business there from 1982 to 2007.
Before Riley announced he would buy it for use as a restaurant, the house had became a center of controversy.
Former owner Beverly Taylor had been saddled with mortgage payments on the property since 2007, when she closed the framing business she ran there with her late husband. She had tried since 2005 to sell the property, but potential buyers didn’t want to take on the old house and its structural problems.
Town officials resisted pleas to allow her to demolish the building and sell the land to a developer for fear of setting a precedent that could damage the future of the historic district. But under rules in force at the time, Taylor automatically qualified for a demolition permit a year later.
Just before the permit became necessary, Riley found the house listed for sale online and decided it was the perfect project to lure him home to Blacksburg, where he spent many of his growing-up years.
His interest saved it from a wrecking crew and took the financial pressure off Taylor.
Although the project has since then had its ups and downs, Riley said he’s still excited.
“It’s better than ever,” he said.
And his vision of the restored old house is still intact. The remodeling is being done under the auspices of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Riley said, as part of the state’s historic tax credit program.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1675