The Evolution of 104 Jefferson

When searching for his next renovation project, Wesley Crunkleton, Principal at Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate, ended up finding a space that surprised him.

“When I was initially told about this property being a potential opportunity, I had a hard time identifying which property they were referring to,” he said. “When I walked over to Jefferson Street to check it out, I remember saying to myself that I didn’t think I’d ever realized the building was there. However, once I started walking through the space I saw a ton of potential.”

After finishing The Garage at Clinton Row, the 11,000 square foot mid-block building would soon become the site of Wesley’s next downtown real estate redevelopment.

The exterior of 104 Jefferson before renovations began.

The Plan

During the past few months, anyone walking downtown near Jefferson Street noticed the changes taking place at one of the block’s historic buildings. Although hidden behind a construction tent at times, the property was quickly becoming one of the city’s next modern office spaces.

“We had been looking at other opportunities for renovations downtown that didn’t work out at the time,” said Wesley. “The contractor I used for The Garage at Clinton Row put me in touch with the owners of 104 Jefferson and that’s when the project really took off.”

After a few months of deliberation and patience from all parties involved, everyone agreed to terms of the building’s purchase. A schedule of events was quickly put together.

“Our first order of business, after we had devised a plan for the property, was to make sure that the City of Huntsville Inspection and Fire Department were on board, as well,” he said.

“These older properties can be tricky because they were built during a period of time that either did not involve the inspection process or the process was vastly different from today. Both the Inspection and Fire Department can really be helpful on the front end with a project like this, and I would always recommend that anyone planning to undertake a downtown renovation get them involved early in the process.”

(Below are images of the property BEFORE the renovation.)

From January to July of this year, the look and feel of the property changed dramatically.

The Design: Modern Industrial

Although the building’s construction was completed in 1915, its interior design was frozen in time somewhere between the late 80s and early 90s.

“When I came across the space, everything was very retro,” explained Wesley. “Funky shapes, bold reds, and other dated elements were interspersed throughout the property. We knew there needed to be a significant amount of work done to uncover its true potential.”

104 Jefferson’s facelift was not a simple undertaking. Work began to expose brick walls and incorporate sleek glass, clean lines, and aesthetically pleasing paint colors. In fact, only two colors were used throughout the final product. The wooden doors you see today are made from the wooden rafters taken out of the second-floor ceiling.

“The goal was to make everything clean as possible,” he said. “We ended up using a dark tile with a dark grout that gives the lobby a slate or concrete finish look. The seamless glass entry doors in each suite are a hint to the modern, while the exposed brick gives it the industrial feel.”

(Here are images of 104 Jefferson AFTER the renovation.)

The character of the property began to take shape with the addition of exposed sprinkler pipes and artistic lighting fixtures. But its crowning jewel was something that received much attention from the community—a hidden mural that made its debut during the fourth day of chipping away at the lobby’s plaster.

The Discovery: A Message From The Past

 “Without a doubt, you need to remove the plaster. Take it off.”

This was the advice given to Wesley on a business trip to Chattanooga while visiting a contractor acquaintance who had tackled similar projects. Not wanting to begin a project that he couldn’t execute 100 percent, the encouragement was the push he needed to make the final design decision to uncover the wall beneath the old plaster.

“I already knew it was something that I wanted to do—expose the brick,” said Wesley. “And sure enough, we started chipping away and found yellows, greens, and blues. The old sign started to show itself. It was a welcomed surprise.”

After doing research, Wesley determined that the sign was for Bull Durham Tobacco. Co. and had been hidden for decades.

“It’s the same tobacco company whose factory was operational in the mid-1900s but burned down in North Carolina where the company was based,” he said. “We thought the connection to the past would be a wonderful feature to the building that would add personality and interest its visitors.”

The Modern Office Space: Where Is It Headed?

It’s impossible to ignore the changes in the look, feel, and function of 104 Jefferson. In an effort to keep pace with the transformations in today’s office settings, the space was built to encourage collaboration, creative team building, and successful project execution.

“Simply put, offices are headed to less of an office feel,” clarified Wesley. “Offices are becoming a place that you not only work but hang out, as well. The days of squeezing into a tiny conference room and exhausting yourself over a whiteboard are gone. Now, business might be done over a game of pool in the back lounge where people brainstorm.”

The Environment: Downtown Huntsville

Businesses are flocking to the downtown area in order to take advantage of the off-site meeting spaces, like coffee shops and bars, in order to recruit new hires and take a mental break from the daily grind.

Exterior of 104 Jefferson after the renovations.

Current tenants at 104 Jefferson include KPS Group and Prime Lending, which moved in after the renovations were completed to the ground floor.

“It really is more about your office dynamic rather than what downtown provides as an office setting,” he said. “For instance, Prime Lending moved its business from South Parkway. The ability to walk out the door and go have a drink or shop at The Garage at Clinton Row helps them utilize downtown as a built-in recruiting tool.”

The Reward: A Completed Project

“One of the most gratifying parts of any project is when people are pleased with what you’ve done to their property,” beamed Wesley. “The seller of the site found me after the renovation was complete and said they were very happy with the way it turned out. It’s a great feeling, and we are very thankful at how patient and supportive they have been throughout the process. It was truly a team effort. Everyone involved has been incredible.”

Next time you are exploring Downtown Huntsville, take a moment to stop and look at one of Huntsville’s newest office spaces that combines the present with the past. It very well could be the perfect spot for your business.

 To learn more about 104 Jefferson, click here.

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HALEY CLEMONS
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

Happy Independence Day From Crunkleton!

We live in the land of the free because of the brave. Have a safe and fun Independence Day tomorrow. Thank you to all who serve!

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HALEY CLEMONS
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

Historic Huntsville: The Story Behind The Yarbrough Building

One of the best ways to uncover the past is to speak with someone who lived it. In researching the historic Yarbrough Building, I was introduced to Mary Jane Caylor, a well-known Huntsville figure who has dedicated much of her time to restoring the Downtown neighborhood. She has worn many hats and had many stories to share.

During our afternoon of exploring the building, we discovered a beautiful story of old Huntsville and the former life of one elegant downtown hotel.

Mary Jane Caylor and I made our way to the steps of the historic Yarbrough Office Building on the corner of Holmes Avenue in Downtown Huntsville. As our eyes adjusted to the sun-filled day, Mary Jane examined the front door.

“I can still see Chapman standing here greeting guests,” she said. “He was the head bellman at the hotel, and he was so nice to us as children.” She shook her head as if to break her trance. “He wore an all-white jacket and was friends with the other bellman, Grant. You know, Holmes Avenue used to be a major thoroughfare. Traffic, parades—it was the place to be.”

Located along Washington Street and Holmes Avenue, the Yarbrough Building was once a towering icon to the City of Huntsville. The four-story fragment of history welcomed families, guests, and traveling businessmen as the Yarbrough Hotel between 1923 and the early 1960s.

In a time when the city had a more modest population and the glitz and glamor of a new hotel attracted the elite, the Yarbrough was a promise that the town was growing and evolving.

We ambled up the steps beneath the elaborate awning and opened the doors to the lobby of the office building. For Mary Jane, born in 1942, the building held many happy memories.

“See that banister there?” she said while pointing to the ceiling and motioning her hand in a circle. “When I was little, I would hang over the side of it and get a spanking every time.” She chuckled as she continued to examine the lobby.

“Is it very different from when you were a child?” I asked.

She paused for a moment. “In my memory, this place was massive. And when I return for visits, I’m reminded that I saw it through the eyes of a child.”

Plans For A Grand Hotel

More than a simple brick and concrete structure, the Yarbrough Hotel was known as one of the premier hotels in the Huntsville area in the 1920s. On March 29, 1923, the Yarbrough Brothers announced in the Community Builder that the construction of a four-story hotel would take place, costing roughly $150,000. It was proposed that the hotel would include 75 rooms and communal baths on each floor.

“It was a luxury to get a bathroom to yourself at the Yarbrough,” said Mary Jane. “That was the setup—Jack-and-Jill-style bathrooms with one shower.” Even today, you can still see the same restrooms on the 3rd and 4th floors—sans the showers.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, Mr. Brogan of Fayetteville, Tennessee held the contracts for the footing and J.H. Goodwin was the concrete contractor.

Plans were later proposed by architect D. Anderson Dickey to add an additional 5th story to the Yarbrough that would house 20 guests rooms and a large banquet hall. The manager at the Twickenham Hotel, located where The Garage at Clinton Row is today, had announced a week prior that they would be adding their own banquet floor. As it turns out, neither hotel saw their plans through.

The Yarbrough also featured storefronts on the ground floor of the hotel that catered to businessmen, including a barbershop and Hilding Holmberg’s Men’s Wear, located on the corner of Holmes Avenue and Washington Street. There was also a small billiard room near the boiler room on the hotel’s basement floor.

“Adams and Walker Drugstore preceded Hilding Holmberg’s Men’s Wear where Downtown Huntsville, Inc. is housed today,” she explained. “Chad Emerson, the President and CEO, wanted to keep the original floors and you can still see where the stools from the soda fountain were placed. People visit and they love that the history has been preserved.”

And, as history tells it, The Yarbrough Hotel opened to eager crowds with a wonderful Grand Opening Celebration in 1924.

It wasn’t long until Mary Jane’s grandparents moved to The Yarbrough in 1925.

The Smith Family

Mary Jane’s grandparents moved from Corinth, Mississippi to the Yarbrough Hotel with their seven children in tow. They were one of the hotel’s longtime residents, as the children remained there until growing up and going their separate ways. But the family would gather again for special occasions and bring children of their own to visit their grandmother. Mary Jane, daughter of Charles R. Smith Sr. and Leona Butler Smith, holds on to fond memories of visiting her grandmother at the hotel.

As a product of Victorian upbringing, her grandmother, Lena Rinehart Smith, was the definition of refined and expected her children and grandchildren to be well behaved. The hotel was a place where the children acted with much civility—not a place to horse around.

The Smith Family celebrating at the Yarbrough Hotel.

“Any time we were at dinner we would get a stern look if we so much as turned around in our seats,” said Mary Jane. “It was a strict upbringing, but it was good for us.”

Mary Jane and I had found a cozy spot to stop and chat. “What would you say is your favorite memory at the hotel?” I asked.

“Probably the Christmas dinners we had there,” she smiled. “On Christmas night we would go and visit my grandmother in our finest clothes. And, I’m not exaggerating, my mother would bake anywhere between 15 and 20 cakes during the Christmas holidays, thus, she provided the desserts for the Smith Christmas dinners! All kinds of cakes—coconut, lemon, chocolate, white, fruit cakes, you name it.” She paused and smiled.

Mary Jane’s grandmother with the Smith cousins in the 1950s at the hotel.

“Afterward, we’d all gather around the piano and Aunt Elizabeth would play while we sang Christmas songs,” she said. “You know, you rarely appreciate those good days when they are happening, but we are not promised tomorrow. I’m very thankful for those memories.”

We went on to talk about Bertha (the elevator operator in the hotel’s heyday), popular residents at the hotel, and stories of days gone by.

Mary Jane’s father and grandmother in the lobby of the hotel.

“There was a ballroom on the second floor, just to the left of the elevators,” she explained. “The ballroom adjoined the suite where my grandmother, Aunt Eugenia Smith, and cousin Sara Ann Smith lived at the hotel.”

She told me area high school students took ballroom dancing lessons from Irene Jones there, one of the only dance instructors in the city at the time. The ballroom was also the setting for those family Christmas dinners she adored.

But The Yarbrough wasn’t the only hotel in town back in the day, and when the Russel Erskine opened its doors in 1930 business took a hard hit. The Russel Erskine was much larger, featured 132 rooms and stood 12 stories high.

As the sparkle of the hotel faded and Huntsville began to expand outside of the downtown area, the hotel was less frequented.

“The Yarbrough was very popular for a long time,” she said. “But we especially saw a decline of the downtown area as a whole when the parkway opened in 1955.”

Even with heavy competition, the hotel remained in business for several years before closing in the early 1960s.

The Yarbrough Office Building Today

In the 1980s, the building underwent renovations to reopen as an office center.

Frederick Lanier is the President of the West Huntsville Land Co., a property management company formed in Huntsville in 1923. The West Huntsville Land Co. acquired the ownership of the building in 2002 and has leased out almost all of the space to thriving businesses including Heart of the Valley YMCA, Community Development, and several successful law firms. He joined us on our walk through the past and shared some of his insights on the building.

“My father always told me to never own a building with an elevator,” he sighed. “Three months after I purchased it the elevator failed. Because of the hydraulics, it took awhile to get it fixed, but we haven’t run into any major issues since.”

A proud owner of other historic buildings downtown, Frederick said that the lobby of the building was just as it was the day he bought it.

“It’s almost fully occupied here and the tenants love it,” he said. “We are like a family.” He gestured for both of us to follow him to the back of the building where we were greeted by a small awning that boasted a large “Y” on its front.

The original hotel logo.

“That’s the original symbol for the hotel,” he explained. “We had them recreate it as a way to remember the building’s significance.”

In addition to the original lobby, the second-floor mezzanine was retained for historic purposes, as well.

“It is very important to us as stewards of the Yarbrough to preserve the historic integrity of the building,” he said. “This is a piece of Huntsville history—it’s a part of who we are as a community.”

Mary Jane’s father, Charles, and Frederick’s father, Pete Lanier, were great civic leaders and good friends.

“Daddy would be so happy to know that Frederick owns the Yarbrough today,” she said. “He has done an outstanding job in preserving the historic significance of the hotel.”

A Downtown Dream

As we completed our tour of the building, Mary Jane looked around the busy downtown streets.

“I remember a time when shops downtown were boarded up,” she said. “You didn’t travel downtown. But now, it’s moving back to where it once was—a wonderful place to bring families and live, dine, or enjoy a night out.”

We shut the doors behind us and strolled back to the corner of Holmes.

“There are days I don’t need to drive through downtown to get somewhere, but I find myself doing it anyway,” she remarked. “I just love seeing the crowds and families—it’s wonderful. And the Yarbrough, well, every time I step inside I’m happy to be there.”

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NOTE: All information for this article was collected from copies of The Huntsville Daily Times, the National Register of Historic Places databaseand the interviews mentioned above. If you have additional information about the Yarbrough Hotel, please email haley@crunkletonassociates.com. We’d love to include additional or updated info.

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HALEY CLEMONS
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM

Broker Spotlight: Anusha Alapati

How did you become interested in commercial real estate?

That’s an interesting story—I sort of fell into it. When I graduated college I was offered a job at my great uncle’s company, Yedla Management, that develops hotels across the Southeast. I became very interested in the development side of the business and he suggested that commercial real estate might be something that would fit me. He was right.

I wake up every day feeling blessed to be in my position. It’s challenging, fun, and very rewarding.

Anusha Alapati

What do you love most about your job as a commercial real estate broker?

Being able to help the City of Huntsville grow and thrive is something that never gets old. We are a big city with a small-town feel, and it’s amazing to watch new businesses be supported by the community with such enthusiasm.

Even the challenges are enjoyable—they can end up being the most fun. Creating retail synergy is a giant puzzle, and I have the privilege of thinking through those challenges and helping produce something out-of-the-box, memorable, and highly successful. And of course, the relationships I’ve built through my position have been a major highlight.

What makes Huntsville a wonderful destination for new businesses?

We are starting to see the urbanization of Huntsville as our city is embracing the live, work, play lifestyle. Like I said, the support that the community gives is unmatched. Huntsville is on the rise, and new concepts are welcomed here with open arms.

The city shares a passion for development and growth, and that’s reflected in the way we encourage new business ventures. I hope to bring more interesting retail concepts to the Rocket City.

You specialize in retail leasing—what does that mean?

Focusing on a particular area of commercial real estate is something that differentiates Crunkleton. We have brokers that specialize in certain types of leasing, allowing them to stay hyper-focused on a specific side of the business. My specialty is retail.

I understand the landscape of boutique, restaurant, and specialty retail leasing and what it takes to be successful in those areas. It’s something that has always clicked with me and it’s where my passion is.

What projects have you found especially rewarding?

That’s too difficult to answer; every project is unique. I do love the challenging projects, because they make you stay on top of your game and expand your skillset. You are never stagnant in this line of work. It requires you to keep growing.

That being said, it has been a privilege to be a part of the revitalization of Downtown Huntsville. Wesley Crunkleton did an amazing job of executing his vision for The Garage at Clinton Row, and I was given the opportunity to lease the development. Working with Charlie and Sasha Sealy on The Avenue was also an exciting undertaking because it was one of the first large-scale mixed-use developments in the downtown area.

But it’s not just about downtown, projects like Central Park Village, 2700 Capitol Park in Tuscaloosa, and the chance to work with retailers in expanding to other cities has been very fulfilling too.

Anusha worked on major Downtown Huntsville projects like The Garage at Clinton Row. Here she is in her favorite dress from Elitaire Boutique, a tenant at The Garage!

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in commercial real estate?

It takes grit, persistence, leaving your comfort zone, and developing meaningful relationships to be successful.

Be ready to work hard. It involves constant research and putting yourself out there to make sure the job is done.

How do you stay on top of your game?

In this business, you have to stay ahead of the trends. What do people want? Where do people want to shop? What experience can you deliver to a retail consumer that leaves a lasting impression? I am always researching trends—Business Insider, Forbes, Shopping Centers Today, you name it. I also attend major conferences like ICSC and I travel to research new concepts.

It’s important to understand how millennials live, work, and find entertainment. Trends change rapidly and are vastly different today than 5 years ago, or even 2 years ago.

What value do you hope to bring to your clients?

I want to ensure a seamless process and be a resource for them. I want to be there to connect them to the people and assets they need for a prosperous business. Watching my clients grow and flourish is why I do what I do.

Enjoying a day of fly fishing in Blue Ridge, GA.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

Staying active in the community is important to me, which is why I try to spend my free time volunteering with organizations like Mayfair Inner City Church and Junior League of Huntsville. I’m also a member of Committee 100 YP and a newly elected member of the Huntsville Museum of Art Foundation Board.

I also love fly fishing, spending time with my family, my boyfriend Matt, and my dog Charlie.

You can contact Anusha by email at anusha@crunkletonassociates.com or by calling 256-536-8809.

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HALEY CLEMONS
MARKETING COORDINATOR
CRUNKLETON COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GROUP
HALEY@CRUNKLETONASSOCIATES.COM