There’s a piece of literature I quote all the time, especially in my head. This quote is the reason, really most of the reason, I tell people I like Ernest Hemingway as an author. Hemingway wrote a short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” That’s it. That’s my quote. The rest of the story, I’m sure is elegant and existential, and I read it once, but that title defines what I look for, as an architect, as a human living on a hard planet, longing for heaven, most of the time. That quote is the impetus for taking this seat with a lilting tabletop, at a window, at the Times. The accompanying coffee cup itself is simply a barter for rent for the seat at this table with a window.
Hargett Street in Raleigh is addictive. Fayetteville Street is a city project, it’s an opportunity for bond referendums and bank fronts, but Hargett Street is where downtown happens. There’s the active fads around the excellent newish restaurants and pubs and the first-Friday street life, and the school buses at the children’s museum, and I want these fads to last a long time and mature into tradition. But, Hargett street holds striking evidence of what was here before the new: the original city square, the Montegue Building with its fight for survival, Hamlin Drug Store and the barbershops, the actual Raleigh Times paper, all this before my entree to the neighborhood. Hargett Street is/was the mix of black and white, hipsters and lawyers, police and panhandlers, the mix that makes the city. Raleigh is always looking for definition, and Hargett Street is my best guess at that answer.
Here’s notice: watch the Hargett east 100 block. Big news is that I’m seeing contractors late nights in Hatem/Maurer’s 119. Why are they working after hours? Somebody knows.
But also, THREE new bars are being installed concurrently into the 108 building. I know this too well, because I spent the last four weeks having then not having then having then not having the job for one of them. Landmark is our instant traditional members-only bar, now three years old, people like it, and across the street is [googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps?q=108+hargett+street&hl=en&ll=35.778219,-78.637851&spn=0.000009,0.010568&sll=35.778133,-78.637834&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&layer=c&cbp=13,169.13,,0,6.23&cbll=35.778219,-78.637856&t=h&z=17&vpsrc=0&panoid=WUY2fOaQfj2nptioM_0y6A&output=embed&s=AARTsJp56EajYksz3JXgNCwT3LJnGsqqAQ]
. Except when it was briefly office to one of Raleigh’s most-mentoring architects, it’s been home to a series of scary bars. Scary as in gunfire, mandated police presence, carpeted booths, and stages with chromed poles.
The building owner for 108 making a difference. The old tenants are out. He’s doing the work himself: walk in and see brand new hand crafted bars, new flooring, pool tables, and good colors. The two new bars on the ground floor are themed, which bar-types say is important. But the upstairs has the opportunity to be a truly great place.
“Clean” will be up to the new lounge Owners on the second floor. I hope they’re up to it. They come from a long list of experience with Raleigh nightlife. Experience carries the burden of habits and expectations for cash. To do “clean,” they’ll have to do something different. So far, they’ve torn out the poles and carpeted booths, so we’re off to an excellent start.
And “Well Lit.” This is the building with the arrow, the skylight as big as the roof. When they tore out the booths, they discovered southern windows. Pending interior construction, daylight flows south to north through the space. Moonlight would stream through the skylight, down the front steps to the sidewalk and waiting clientele. This space could matter.
With the mix of ingredients here, 108 ½ Hargett Street could be right. It could last, and it could make a difference to another block that needs a little more love and growth. It could be a clean well lighted place. I dare the new tenants and their design team to build it right.
Now, to shake off my addiction to this one street and look for new opportunities. For example, Faces Lounge should start construction any day, and it’s even closer. Watch out Salisbury Street.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
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