You may have noticed; there is a lot of activity going on in Downtown Hahira. The Depot will soon be finished, giving us back what once was a gathering spot for the community, thanks to Keith Barrett of Altman & Barrett Architects. But Keith’s partner, Walter Altman, and his wife Suzie, are doing their part to help restore Hahira to its beauty of days gone by.
Walter and Suzie purchased the Odum Building from the Hahira Downtown Development Authority this past summer and immediately got to work rehabilitating this ole beauty. The Odum building was built in April 1911 as speculative rental space by a group of local businessmen. It is suggested that the Masons took up residence immediately on the third floor and used it as their lodge. Since that time, the building has housed everything from Cohen’s Department Store, to a gym, to an insurance agency.
The Altmans have big plans for this old gem of a building, but there is a lot of work going on before that can happen. To begin with, 90 tons of debris from recent years of remodeling have been removed to make way for the old again. After three months of ripping everything out and cleaning up, they are now ready to begin re-installing as much as they can. The couple was surprised to learn that under layers of more modern building materials there were some hidden jewels. “The masonry is in good shape, the floor joists were rotted on the ends, where they connected to the walls, but are still good in the middle,” said Mr. Altman. The subfloor, as well as the existing floor, are all heart pine and are good condition towards the center of the building.
Even though some of the wood is in a state of disrepair, they plan to set up a shop on the bottom floor during reconstruction to reclaim and repair as much as they can from this beautiful building. They want to maintain as much historical value of the building as they can; “All your history is tied up in these buildings”, says Mr. Altman. Plans are even being made to re-use the oversized trusses in some capacity in the new design. They intend for reconstruction to begin on the first floor, then move up as that level is completed.
As for the purpose of the new building, well, that is as exciting as the reconstruction itself. A commercial baking kitchen will go in on the first floor, with room for retail and dining close to the front. A bed and breakfast will be housed on the second floor, offering overnight accommodations to travelers, and locals alike. And finally, the Altman’s plan to make their home on the 3rd floor, becoming official Hahira residents.
Though Mr. Barrett isn’t involved in this particular project with his partner, they have already renovated two other buildings in downtown Hahira. When asked why they chose Hahira for their recent projects, he was quick to point out that Hahira is centrally located, minutes away from I-75, and the traffic is considerably less than Valdosta. Mr. Barrett also pointed out that over half their employees live in Hahira, so it made sense. Indeed, Hahira is poised for a very strategic growth in the coming years, and the Altmans and Mr. Barrett are happy to be a part of that growth. And, Hahira is proud to have the Altman’s and Mr. Barrett here.