Saturday morning started off with a flurry of activity. The girls had their fitness class scheduled at 8. It was a two hour class; hopefully the guests would all be up by the time it ended. Marcy and the rest of the girls wanted to take Jenny and I to look at a building they thought might work for a gym. They said that it was right in the neighborhood. That sort of upset me. I had been so wrapped up in the day to day part of living that I had not even taken the time to recon my neighborhood. I learned all the facts about it from our chat time with the Mom’s while waiting for the turkey to cook.
I learned that this thumb of land that we were on was a thousand acre parcel that at one time belong to Charlie Summers. Rumor had it that he was involved with bootleg whiskey in the twenty’s and that was where he made his money. He owned a publishing company that printed papers, magazines and the like. The delivery trucks had false floors. They would pick up moonshine in the south along with blank paper from the pulp wood mills and deliver it to his warehouses in the area. The blank paper was replaced with printed stock and delivered with the booze to the buyers in the cities of the north using the publishing business as a cover.
As Charlie needed money after the moonshine business dried up he began selling parcels of land to keep the printing business going. I knew he had a big plant in Easton that was wiped out by a unsolved massive explosion when I was a kid in school. The rolls of paper burned for days. Crystal’s Grandfather had bought the lot in the 50s that Jake’s house was on. It had been a wedding present to her.
I didn’t know that Charlie had lived across the street or that there was a paper warehouse back there. The house and warehouse were blocked from view by several rows of trees. The driveway was blocked by a chain with a realtor’s sign on it.
The fitness class was to be over at 10:30. We were to meet the realtor there at 11. Lorrie, Marcy and Vicky were all going to spend the rest of the day with their parents after we looked at the building. That left Ching Lee, Patti and Wendy at home with Jenny and me. I was going to hit the gym sometime before I hit the bed tonight. Maybe we three could go through the BSDM collection in the basement to figure out what we had. Of course we could all go shopping but my heart wasn’t in it.
At 10:45 the realtor, Island Land Brokerage, called to say that he had an emergency and could not make it but would send his daughter with the folder and the keys to let us in. I carried a legal pad and a 25 foot tape measure that I borrowed out of Jake’s tool box that was still out in the garage.
Susan Wright, who looked to be in her mid-twenty’s, had the chain down when we arrived and was waiting in front of the building. She had the lot plot laid out on the back of the car. It was a rectangle 135 feet by 300 feet, slightly less than a acre. The warehouse was five feet from the south and east property lines. The warehouse was eighty five by one hundred and fifty feet with the concrete floor four feet above the ground. There was a ten foot wide concrete loading dock that ran the whole length of the building on the north side with several heavy steel rollup doors. The roof of the building extended over the dock. On the west end there was a standard double storefront aluminum entrance doors that opened onto a five foot concrete dock that also had half circle ramp to ground level. The ramp was four foot wide. It would make a great handicap ramp with the addition of a hand rail. There was a double tree line of Leland Cypress trees along side of the north property line on what had been the old telephone right of way.
The Charlie Summers house – or what was left of it – was in the southwest corner of the lot. A grown up tree line with the drive way entrance located on the north property line separated the house from the main road way that split the thumb in two. The driveway was angled through the tree line. That angled drive through the two tree lines and the grown up phone right of way is what had hidden the warehouse from the highways. Charlie’s house was a burnt out relic.
Susan had the original blue prints for the warehouse. It was built when Charlie was making plenty of money. The block foundation was a double row of 12 inch blocks that were rebar and concrete filled. In the south-east corner there was a 12 by 12 foot cellar four foot deep with a 3 by 4 concrete lid with threaded holes for lifting eyes. Other than the blocked in cellar the thing was filled with dirt. I found it interesting that the blueprint specified that the dirt had to be put in four inch layers and rolled with no smaller than a four-ton roller for two days before the next layer was installed. The concrete slab was 12 in with ¾ double rebar to hold the weight of the paper.
The building was made with steel arched beams on eight foot centers and double thickness sheet-metal and double sealing ridges. The spec was for a 150 mph category 4 hurricane certification. The entire building including the ceiling was insulated with a revolutionary new product at the time. The fiberglass was covered over with white painted aluminum ridged metal. There was full length florescent lighting. This was a top of the line building when it was built.
The power was still on so we turned the lights on as we went inside. The building had been cleaned at some time. There was no trash or other debris. There was a single work table near the entrance door and a small bathroom with a sink and flush in the corner. At the far end of the building there were some cartons covered with a tarp.
Susan told us that it had been on the market for four years. They had shown it twice. The lot was poorly sized to be torn down and build anything else there, plus the warehouse had been over-built so much that estimates ran as high as a quarter million to remove it and haul it away. With the changes in the planning and zoning, setbacks, open spaces laws and restrictions the lot was almost useless. The grandchildren wanted whatever they could get so they could close the estate.
I called Bob’s General Contracting to see if he could come to give me some estimates today. He said he would be about half an hour. While we were waiting Susan said that she needed to leave. I told her we would lock up and hang the chain if she would leave the keys and I would return them Monday afternoon. I asked what the rock bottom cash price was. She said she would have it Monday morning.
I sketched out rough plans for a gym in the building. A waiting room at the entrance door with an attached office would be necessary. A shower room with multiple showers and non-slip tile floor, another little room with a couple of toilets, and an attached dressing room with lockers would also be needed. There would be plenty of room for all the machines and mats we wanted. After I was done I showed the plans to the girls, we then walked it out on the floor and had a barn storming session. I redrew the sketch several times before we came together on the final drawing. It would be close enough to get an ‘in the ball park’ estimate. The girls had all kinds of other related things that would go along with the fitness class and the building was certainly big enough for it but for now we just had to go with the bare necessities.
Bob came in and I gave him the sketch I had drawn. Then we walked it out on the floor. I also explained that we needed more outlets along the walls for fans and powered equipment. He explained that we would need to update the breaker panel to be able to get enough circuits. I suggested that he price out one twice as big as he thought we needed. We had a lot of expansion plans if things worked out.
Bob suggested that instead of cutting the floor to install all the plumbing for the showers, that they simply lay out all the plumbing and pour a floor one foot thick, the size of the bathroom, showers and dressing room. Central drains could be put in, the floor sloped to the drains, and the waste water pipe could go out the back and trenched around the building to the county sewer pipe. We would install the fresh water pipe in the same trench. It would save a lot of labor expense, cutting deep slots in the floor and dealing with the rebar would take days and the slots would have to be filled with concrete anyhow. He also suggested using 3 inch tile on the walls and floor and that the hot and cold water come from above instead of in the floor. I agreed with that suggestion.
Outside I explained that I wanted all the trees on the north end and the house removed, graded, and seeded. I explained about putting in a hand rail for the front loading dock and ramp.
Bob said, “I will have the estimate to you by 10 Monday morning.”
That finished up our look at the building. The girls and their parents left in separate vehicles to show them sights around the area. Jenny, Ching Lee and I returned home.
Wendy was there waiting on us. She was full of questions about the building and wanted to go see it. Then she went right into telling us about how her Dad raved about the food and thanked us again for the leftover meal. He also had her remind us about the standing offer for a tour.
Edit by Alfmeister