Historical structures often hold significant cultural, architectural and historic value, representing the heritage and identity of a community or region. Restoring and preserving these buildings are of paramount importance as it allows us to connect with our past, understand our roots, and appreciate the craftmanship and design of earlier generations.
Today, I’m sitting down with Chris Murphy to get a glimpse into the intricate process that is involved with giving older structures a new life while maintaining their historic integrity.
Shannon: This is a huge, timely topic with many variables. You’ve been involved in several restoration projects. Can you drill down to just one of them to illustrate the process?
Chris: That’s really difficult to do. By their very nature, all of these projects are one-of-a-kind. But for the purpose of walking through the process my go-to is the Braselton Brewery. It was originally a cotton gin built in 1920 and had gone virtually untouched in several years. Bringing it back to life from its previous condition to its current state while maintaining the original structure as much as possible was very rewarding.
Shannon: Where did you begin? I get the impression that this project was more than just a mere facelift.
Chris: Correct. Not a nip and tuck situation here. First, the original features and historical significance must be considered. Along with preservationists we closely examine the materials used, construction techniques, and architectural details to understand the original design intent. After that a rigorous structural analysis is conducted to evaluate the stability and integrity of the building. This helps identify any structural deficiencies or potential risks that need to be addressed before and then during the restoration process.
Shannon: Transforming a cotton mill into a brewery must have presented unique challenges. Can you highlight a couple of those and what solutions were found?
Chris: Ironically, the main thing they have in common was one of our biggest structural hurdles. Both need a tremendous amount of water to operate. However, there is a large leap from water turbines that were commonly used in the early 1900’s to power the cotton mill to the sophisticated systems needed to accommodate the modern brewing equipment and restaurant space.
Obviously, the building needed significant structural updates. The goal was to preserve as much as the original structure as possible. After thoughtful consideration and tweaking of design plans we were able to save the original brick walls and wooden beams, giving the resulting brewpub an authentic industrial feel.
Shannon: Now that you’ve put in the hard work and been able to see it manifested as a popular destination in Braselton that attracts locals and visitors with its unique history what should be our main takeaway about these kind of restoration projects?
Chris: Look, it takes a team of professionals, each with their own expertise to collaborate to make a project like this a reality. But the outcome is so worth it. To triumphantly breathe new life into historical structures while ensuring their long-term preservation helps us to learn from these architectural treasures that connect us to our collective history. I’d say it’s done with respect for the past, using present technology with our eyes on the future.