Inside a set of 60-year-old brick walls that once housed, at different times, a garage, an open-air market and a cabinetmaker’s workshop, you’ll now find a tight cluster of aisles stacked with beer and wine – the kind you won’t necessarily see in grocery stores – a growler station and, soon, a wine bar, too.
The Vino Garage on Main Street, straddling the Cottontown and Elmwood neighborhoods, is a prime example of one of the city’s many historic properties that have taken on modern uses. And those are just the sort of properties, both commercial and residential, that the Historic Columbia’s Palladium Society hopes to continue to preserve and educate its members and the public about.
“We hopefully are the future leaders of this place, so to get people invested and interested in the history of it at a young age is very important,” said Megan Plott, president of the Palladium Society, which caters to young professionals in the area.
The Vino Garage was on display Thursday night for its renovation success as an installment of the Palladium Society’s Renovation Rodeo. The events began about two years ago as a way to show off historic buildings, mainly houses, that have kept their original character while becoming a part of modern life in Columbia.
Built in 1955, the building housing the Vino Garage has had minimal changes since Doug Aylard’s business moved in about two years ago. His goal was to repurpose the building as a store where the Cottontown, Elmwood and Earlewood neighborhoods could come to buy good-quality beer and wine and serve as a social spot, while maintaining as much of the building’s original structure and character as possible.
He built a wall facing the street to insulate the store from noise and weather and constructed a portion of another wall from wooden wine crates. Otherwise, with its exposed brick walls and paned windows, it’s not hard to picture the building in its original stature as a mechanical garage.
“It’s important to save these buildings to maintain the character and identity of a town, or else you’d just be Anywhere, U.S.A.,” Aylard said.
One of the goals of introducing the public to successfully refashioned buildings like the Vino Garage is to educate people in Columbia about how they can preserve the historic characters of their buildings, Plott said.
“Most of the homes downtown are old, so we need to educate (homeowners) on ways that we can do that,” Plott said. “And it’s not going to break the bank, and they can really keep some of the historic integrity of the home but still renovate it to a livable, usable space for people our age.”
Kyle and Hilary Brannon, who attended the Renovation Rodeo as recently joined Palladium Society members, live in a Shandon home built in the 1930s that has benefited from past work that restored features like the original flooring and a large sink, they said.
Typically, Kyle Brannon said, buildings that come from earlier decades have a more unique look and better character than newer buildings.
“More often than not, classic things that were done a long time ago are better than more modern stuff – music, movies, whatever,” he said. “And it’s good to preserve the way things originally were so that people our age and our children can see how they looked.”