People talk about reusing buildings, but not many make the dramatic change I undertook. In 1985 I turned a town eyesore, the abandoned water treatment plant, into an office for my dental practice. This building has an interesting history to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed transforming it into a place to practice dentistry.
The plant was built in the mid-1920s on Elm Avenue, across from the brick building that housed the town’s first source of electricity, a generator fueled in part by sawdust from the mill across the railroad tracks. The town had built a small dam on Smith Creek and tapped the pond behind it for its water supply.
In 1964 they completed the Smith Creek Reservoir and water treatment plant on Wait Avenue, and this building was then abandoned. In the next few years, Ellis Nassif, who lived next door in the Rolesville granite house, frequently complained about the mosquitoes, which bred there. In addition, it became a home for bats and birds that bred there as well and fed on the mosquitoes. Nassif’s complaints were noted because he was a distinguished attorney in Raleigh and Wake Forest for over 27 years until his death. Although there were many suggestions and student plans to use the building, nothing happened until I took it in hand.
My husband and I moved to Wake Forest in 1985 and were fortunate enough to win the bid on the unoccupied historic water treatment plant being auctioned by the town of Wake Forest. It was a square brick building with huge concrete water holding tanks. We covered the floor-level tank in the center of the building and it became the record area. The suspended metal staircase and catwalk overlooking the tanks were transformed into a beautiful wooden staircase and balcony with recessed windows. This and the intricate woodwork framing the two story windows and the crown molding were executed by a master carpenter.
The renovation took about nine months, as there were many unexpected complications due to the unique and massive construction of the water plant. Plumbing couldn’t be added, so treatment rooms and bathrooms were part of an addition to the side of the building.
A doorway was opened into one internal concrete holding tank to become a storage area. It took many man hours to jackhammer the opening for the doorway since the rebar-reinforced concrete was 15 inches thick. A pitched roof and copper covered entrance were added to soften the harsh squareness of the exterior.
To me, the tall windows and spaciousness of the waiting room give a comforting and calming feel, like a vaulted sunroom. With its unusual recesses it also becomes the perfect showcase for the things I love. Although I’ve never traveled to Japan, I think kimonos are beautiful with their intricate embroidery and stunning colors. I’ve collected Japanese dolls and other Asian memorabilia that are also on display.
The treatment rooms contain many of my shell art mosaics known as “Sailor’s Valentines” (since my house is full!).
The window bird feeders give us the opportunity to closely watch all varieties of birds with their unique feeding habits.
While many patients come to us through word of mouth from friends and coworkers, others are attracted by the building’s unusual exterior and smiling face on the huge oak tree. But all find our practice to be warm and friendly like the interior of our office. It gives me great pleasure to hear our patients remark on the uniqueness of our building, but even more so to see them relax and enjoy the ambiance we have been able to create.
It gives me great pleasure to hear our patients remark on the uniqueness of our building, but even more so to see them relax and enjoy the ambiance we have been able to create.
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