Today, after much historical renovation by owners Larry Neff and Rudy Farber, the 124-year-old Sterling building — which is actually three structures in one — is seeing new life as a complex which will house both residential living and retail space.
Five years ago, most people looked at the former Pick ‘N’ Save building and saw a structure in disrepair.
But two Neosho residents looked at it and saw potential.
Today, after much historical renovation by owners Larry Neff and Rudy Farber, the 124-year-old building — which is actually three structures in one — is seeing new life as a complex which will house both residential living and retail space.
In 2006, the tin façade was removed, revealing the historic brickwork beneath. After getting two of the three buildings listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, laborers began tearing out rotted features, tuck-pointing the exposed brick, putting in new flooring, installing joists and beams, and otherwise giving the old building a complete face-lift.
The northernmost part of the structure was completely torn down and rebuilt to match the rest of the building.
“The northernmost building was structurally challenged,” Farber said. “We basically had to rebuild the north building. The north building was not on the historic tax credit program, although we made it look like the rest of it for continuity purposes.”
The building now has 12 apartments, including five condominiums, and five retail spaces. Eight of these 12 residential units have been rented, Farber said, and crews are still finishing the five retail spaces.
“From start to finish, the renovation took about three years,” Neff said.
“This structure took longer because it was not on the historic registry,” Farber said. “To do this, we first had to get it listed, and to do that, we had to take all of the tin off to see what was underneath. Fortunately, there was enough [original brick] to qualify.”
Apartments in the structure are about 800 square foot, while the largest of the condo units measures 1,182 square foot. All residential units come equipped with oak cabinetry, trim and baseboards, as well as granite countertops in both the kitchen and bathroom. Appliances include stove, refrigerator, microwave, and washer and dryer.
Neff and Farber have kept the original wide windows throughout, but had to install new glass and have oak trim custom made. Provisions for telephones, Internet access and cable television are also featured in each residential area.
Original brickwork has been utilized in the condo units. A roofline of one of the former buildings can still be seen on some of the brickwork.
“We think the utilities on these will probably be nil,” Farber said. “That’s because of the insulation factor. These units have double ceilings between each level and the walls are 6-inch cellulose insulation.”
“That’s why it’s so quiet up here,” Neff added.
Apartments rent for between $595 and $695 a month, with the condo units going for $695. Currently, the housing units are occupied by professionals, including several teachers, an engineer, and one retiree.
“The only utility building you’ve got here is the electric bill,” said Neff. “We take care of the water, the sewer and the trash. It really boils down to pretty cheap living, but pretty nice living. We hope to get the staples of life downtown within walking distance.”
And, the building offers freedom from home and yard maintenance, Neff said.
“People get tired of yards and stuff,” he said.
Parking is also conveniently located on the south side of the building, and the owners have constructed 10 parking garages within walking distance of the structure for tenants to rent if they want to store their vehicle indoors.
Erected in 1884, the Herms Building — commonly known as the Sterling Building — began its life as a combination furniture store and funeral parlor.
Former Sterling Store Bob Lyttle told the Daily News last year that several tote sacks of skulls and arm and leg bones were taken to the county sheriff many years ago. Authorities told him that the building was once used as a funeral parlor, and the remains were likely people whose family members did not claim.
The building also housed a tunnel in the basement that ran just beneath the structure and reportedly continued southeast beyond Hickory Street, though no one today can quite remember where it came out. According to local lore, bootleggers once utilized the tunnel to run their illegal swill.
Today, the tunnel has been blocked in and the basement area has been divided into storage compartments for the building’s tenants.
In 1926, the building became a variety store and continued as one after Sterling Store bought it in 1930. For the next 50 years, it stayed the Sterling Store before finally closing in 1982, though the Sterling name has pretty much stuck with the building. In more recent times, the structure became the Pick N’ Save, but it too finally closed in 2003.