Dan Durant is known in Ashland as a tastemaker. His Brothers' restaurant is a longtime institution in the city, and the building that it inhabits was recently acquired by Dan and his partner and dramatically upgraded with the co-operation and support of the Ashland Historical Commission. I sat down with Dan to talk about the historic Ashland building that has been rehabilitated and saved through his hard work and passion.
JG: Dan, What led you to make the decision to historically preserve the Brothers' building?
DD: My primary objective was to update the 1888 building and deal with years of deferred maintenance. I celebrate my 10 year anniversary of owning Brothers’ Restaurant on Sept. 4 of this year. With the restaurant enjoying great success in its 41st year of business, I wanted to ensure that the business had a solid building to continue on.
The electrical and plumbing, etc., were in terrible condition. Over the years, pipes in the ceiling of the restaurant would burst, gushing into the mezzanine level. I realized a few years ago, that I would need to buy the building and do an extensive renovation. The only other choice was to move the restaurant — a very risking proposition for a successful restaurant.
So, in 2014, I talked the previous owners into selling. The plan was to convert the three run-down apartments on the second floor into one condominium. Matt Small - of kistler+small+white — approached me with interest in being the architect. It was his experience and design skills that led to the finished project that we see today.
The building was remodeled in the 1970s. In that remodel, a lot of the architectural details were eliminated. For example, the parapet was removed. Matt brought back a lot of these details and added some of his own. He added some whimsical aspects, as well. The sun medallions were done by Deluxe Awning and he added the year of the remodel in “mostly” Roman numerals – instead of MMXVI, he used a combination — 2MXVI. The original building had a few decorative birdhouses on it. I hired Max Reinhardt from the SOU Art Department to create the two new birdhouses that sit on top of the parapet.
JG: What was it like to go through the restoration process?
DD: The restoration process was long and grueling. The roadblocks were many and I had to just persevere and just keep on going. My contractor, Donny Baldwin, always reassured me that we’d get through every step and he was right. The Ashland Historic Commission weighed in on the design elements of the exterior of the building. That part went smoothly, largely in part, because they loved Matt Small’s design. The completion date was originally set to be July 31, 2016. The actual completion was almost a year later.
JG: You updated the top floor into an incredible living space. Tell us about that.
DD: Working with Chris Hearn of Davis, Hearn, Anderson & Turner, I turned the building into two condo units. One unit, the first floor, is Brother's. The second floor is now a two-bedroom, two-bath condo, which is currently for sale. It’s about 1,350 square feet and features an open floor plan with walnut floors, high-end kitchen with Fisher Paykel appliances and a floor-to-ceiling Murano glass fireplace in the main living area. We exposed the brick in the living/dining areas, as well as the two bedrooms, giving the effect of a New York loft. The bedrooms also feature custom made barn doors. If you want to see the historical upgrade you can find the space right next to Brother's Restaurant on North Main. It's pretty amazing.
JG: Now that the construction process is over, what are your future plans for the building?
DD: My plans are to simply maintain the building on a daily basis. We have put in some large planter boxes in the rear of the building and I look forward to doing more planting — focusing on herbs that can be used in the restaurant.
—Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.