Historic Factory Transformed at Emerson Lofts
Stepping into the model at Emerson Lofts in Woodstock reminded me of the high-end, urban lofts of the city. Yet, peering out the windows onto the quiet lanes of Seminary Street reassured me that I hadn’t left McHenry County.
Roaming through the two models on display, I admired both the modern décor and carefully conceived layouts. I began to envision myself as the proud owner of the beautiful loft I stood in, a piece of history with a modern twist.
Emerson Lofts are urban and contemporary, but there is something inherently McHenry County about them. It could be the original saw-tooth skylights that allow sun to dance around the spaces or the rustic beams holding up the vaulted ceilings. One thing is clear. Developers David Plote and Kurt Kresmery have managed to keep the memory of the historic Emerson Typewriters factory alive when renovating the building to create 52 contemporary residences.
In 1910, Emerson Typewriters moved operations from Momence, Illinois, to 301 N. Seminary Avenue in Woodstock. Several years later, Richard W. Sears and A.C. Roebuck purchased the factory and continued produc-ing typewriters at a breakneck pace. Just a few blocks from Woodstock’s downtown square, the typewriter factory was thriving. By 1922, an estimated half of the world’s typewriters were said to have been made at the Woodstock facility.
Woodstock Wire Works took over in the 1970s for over three decades. In 2003, the factory, which had served as a cornerstone of Woodstock commerce for decades, was put up for sale.
Meanwhile, David Plote, a local developer, was looking for a small, older building to convert into five or six loft homes, including a unit for himself. Plote didn’t originally plan for a building as large as the factory, but his realtor coaxed him into checking out the property. Plote describes his first visit as love at first sight.
Walking through the factory, Plote saw beyond what many would dismiss as an old building beyond repair. Eager to show someone his discovery, Plote brought Kurt Kresmery, a friend and fellow developer, to the site to see if Kresmery shared his vision for
Both men agreed that the factory was too good to pass up. It wasn’t until the final papers were signed and restoration began that Kresmery and Plote began to realize how much work was needed to rehab a building with almost 100 years of wear and tear.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
"It was like peeling an onion," said Plote with a chuckle. "The more you peeled back, the more you cried."
"We stripped it to its bones and rebuilt it up," explained Kresmery.
Plote corrects his partner, "We gently stripped it to its bones." Both men nod in agreement.
The original saw-tooth skylights that lit the factory when electricity was scarce and expensive add natural light to some of the lofts today. Also, some of the timber and exposed brick from the Emerson factory have been restored, giving the lofts a visual composition that isn’t possible in new buildings. These features keep a nostalgic feeling of the early 20th Century factory alive in a 21st Century world.
Attention to detail sets Emerson Lofts apart from other complexes. Not only are these lofts different from others in the area, but each of the 52 residences in the complex is unique in its own right.
"Until you walk through the models, you can’t get an appreciation of the uniqueness of Emerson Lofts," said Kresmery. "There’s nothing like it for miles."
Plote describes the lofts with an ice cream analogy. He calls Emerson lofts "chunky monkey" and alternative housing "vanilla." At Emerson Lofts, buyers participate in the construction of their future homes, giving them a prime opportunity to customize their space. Construction of each unit does not begin until they have been purchased. After the papers are signed, construction manager, Randy Imhoff, works with homeowners to customize their lofts.
The features of Emerson Lofts are sure to get a nod of approval from anyone looking for high-class living. The interior amenities include knotty pine doors and nickel hardware, giving the space an elegant yet rustic feel. Kitchens alone attract buyers, with their oak and maple cabinetry and stainless steel sinks.
"Randy is willing to work with customers to give them what they want," Karen Kogler, sales manager for Emerson Lofts, said. Loft completion usually takes no longer than 90 days.
"We’re not a big company," said Kresmery. "We’ll take the time with you to make the home your own."
Now that all major construction is complete, selling units is the company’s primary goal. Emerson Lofts opened its doors to the public at the end of 2006. Since then, 12 of the 52 units have been sold.
Kogler said potential buyers are a mix of people; the diversity of units in Emerson Lofts appeals to a cross section of the community. Kresmery thought the lofts would attract people outside Woodstock, but has been surprised by the response from people already living in the area. Empty nesters can opt for a small 961-sq. ft. one-bedroom unit, while younger couples can purchase a larger 2,279-sq. ft. two-story space. The Emerson Lofts building is near the train station and downtown Woodstock Square, making it a prime location for professionals commuting to Chicago.
This urban import to McHenry County is drawing in new, diverse people, while preserving the history of the area. Plote and Kresmery’s vision of turning a huge, rundown building into contemporary residents seems to have paid off. "When we opened the models, everyone who walked through was speechless," Kresmery said. "It let us know that our original vision was on the mark."
Two Emerson Loft Home models have been nominated for the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago’s Key Awards, which the association calls, "one of the most competitive and prestigious awards in the industry."
For more information please visit:www.emersonlofts.com.