Industrial Development Board to meet in historic building

Friday, December 2, 2011
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods displays where the historic sign now hangs. It's in a unisex facility between two meeting rooms established for private business conferences and meetings of the city's Industrial Development Board.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods said she felt as though she was posing like Wheel of Fortune game show sidekick Vanna White this week while showing off the recently restored Ladies Rest Room, the historic building on First Avenue North.

But somebody had to display the building and the mayor supports the restoration project to create a meeting place and conference room for industrial prospects so they may meet in private with local officials. Long-time Lewisburg residents probably know the origins of the building that the city acquired from the county.

Without restoration, the building between the old county jail and the current sheriff's office may well have fallen of its own weight, crumbling to the ground like the old red brick house further north on First Avenue near Old Farmington Road.

City Industrial Development Director Greg Lowe announced last week that the building had been restored enough so that it could become the permanent meeting place for the Industrial Development Board, the panel that authorized nearly $35,000 for restoration.

"The IDB will have its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Ladies Restroom facility at 12 p.m.," Lowe said Nov. 23.

The building is one of a few remaining landmarks in downtown Lewisburg and is believed to be one of a few such structures in the state.

"The rest room is a unique structure built in 1924 to accommodate the many rural women and young children who needed a place to rest or use a toilet or eat a packed lunch during a day-long visit to town," according to the Marshall County Historical Quarterly published in the winter of 2008-09.

The nine-page report, typed single space, is completed with additional pages with photographs and references for various specific points made by the writer who declined to be named.

The building was constructed with money appropriated by the Marshall County Court, the previous name of the county commission. The county had rented space for the public rest room and when the building was put into service, it created employment for a "matron" to serve the public.

That service continued for decades, but it ended during the time the county owned the building. The building's ownership was transferred to Lewisburg in July 2007.

Since then, the city reconstructed the north wall of the building because of its weakened condition after an adjoining building was removed.

IDB Treasurer Sam Kirby has planned to submit a current accounting of what was spent for restoration since the board authorized up to $25,000 for improvements. By May this year, it became clear the building still had serious structural issues and another $10,000 was appropriated. Nearly $35,000 has now been spent, Kirby said Thursday.

The original appropriation of $20,000, plus a contingency fund of $5,000, "was just going to take care of a lot of cosmetic concerns, but once they got into it, it was clear there would be a lot of good money after bad" if roof and other structural matters were not resolved, Kirby said Thursday.

Tuesday, the mayor opened the building for a sneak peek in the building that has a warm spot in the hearts of Lewisburg residents for the social history it has as well as a testimony to the men who sought to care for their women.

IDB meetings are open to the public.