The owners of a prominent building in downtown Anoka plan to restore it to look as it did more than 130 years ago.

Dan and Julie Smith, of Champlin, purchased the former Sport Shack building at the southeast corner of East Main Street and Second Avenue a few years ago, when the shop’s owners decided to retire. Although the Smiths didn’t want to go into the sports apparel business, they fell in love with the structure.

“We looked at the building, and the inside of it was gorgeous to us,” Dan said. “Old, but gorgeous. And we said we wanted to restore it, back to 1885, as close as possible to that.”

The original store at the site was constructed of wood in the mid 1800s, Dan said, but it burned to the ground in the Anoka fire of 1884.

After the fire, Heman Ticknor had the current building designed and built a year later, Dan said.

“The name of the building is the Phoenix Block,” he said. “You can still read it. It’s in wood. The story of the phoenix was it rose from the ashes. I believe that was why he did it.”

Upstairs served as the Anoka Library before the city’s Carnegie Library was built, and it was later home to a fraternal order, Dan said. There’s also evidence of a dance studio and perhaps a boarding house upstairs, he said.

Over the years the building also housed Beckum’s and then Dedrick’s department store.

“There’s not too many buildings that I would’ve fallen in love with like this one,” Dan said. “But I’m approaching retirement age — actually I’m past retirement age — and I thought it would be a good retirement project.”

The Smiths come from the restaurant and real estate businesses, but this project is truly a “labor of love.”

Since Sport Shack closed in 2018, the Smiths have done “soft demo” work, removing historical trims and opening up the building but saving as much material as possible for future use.

The Smiths had plans drawn up in painstaking detail.

“We went off a very clear picture we believe was shot over 110 years ago,” Dan said. “It was so clear we can count the bricks.”

Although the pandemic delayed their plans, the Smiths expect to begin structural work in the spring of 2022. They’ll have to bring the interior and roof up to modern standards, which requires some changes to accommodate an elevator and other needs.

“We want it to look like it’s from 1885, and so the changes are more on the inside than on the outside,” Dan said.

The restoration project will include cutting out brick where the original windows looked out on Second Avenue and recreating masonry work near the parapets that was removed in the 1950s.

The Smiths wish they could work faster but say they want to do it right.

“I always tell people it’s going to be worth the wait,” Julie said.

But it’s not clear how much longer that wait will be.

“There’s shortages of everything these days, including the people to do the work,” Dan said. “But we’re looking for a smaller contractor that’s fairly local and has some experience with historic buildings.”

When the project is finished, the Smiths plan to rent out the main level as retail space.

 

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