Chesterton Tribune

Imhof Drug building gets new lease on life

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It wasn’t a difficult decision, says Cindy Tilden, to rehab a downtown Porter building for current office space.

Her family has run businesses along Lincoln Street as long as she can remember, and before.

Now she and brother Nick, both attorneys and practicing together as Tilden and Tilden, will open their offices in what was Imhof Drug Store when they were growing up.

Just down the street to the west, now Santiago’s Restaurant, is the building where their grandparents Bill and Margaret Tilden, with help from their children, ran Tilden Feed. The Village Tavern, also on Lincoln St., was once known as Tilden’s Village Tavern, run by Cindy and Nick’s parents, Pat and Arlene Tilden.

Down the street to the east, their brother Paul now owns and runs Tilden Enterprises.

“So, obviously, we have a sentimental attachment to the street,” Cindy said.

The building at 130 Lincoln St. was built sometime in the 1880s, as near as Nick and Cindy can determine, and has served a variety of functions. The Tildens have photos of most of the building’s incarnations, but the Porter Drug Store painted on the clapboard facade, revealed in the latest work, was a surprise, Tilden said.

“We don’t have a picture of it when it was called that,” Cindy said. She and Nick found old photos of the building with help from Eva Hopkins at the Westchester Township Historical Museum.

One of the old photos shows the building when it served as a restaurant/saloon, under the name of Porter Buffet. During that time, the western portion of it was a shoe store. Saloons preceded the drug stores, first Foss’s, then Stillson’s. Imhof started his drug store in the 1930s, prior to that William Zahrn ran Porter Drug Store. The town Post Office was once housed there and most recently it served as the temporary home of Porter town government while the new town hall was being built.

Mike Finley, of Michael Finley Project Management, Valparaiso, said he’s glad to be able to work on a project like this.

The old carpentry is good, solid work and the details are inspiring. The now 5,500 sq. ft. structure has been added onto at least five times since it was built in the mid to late 1800s, Finley said.

“Look at that tin work,” he said, pointing to a serpentine pattern in the tin ceiling, uncovered in what will be the front foyer. Original beadboard wainscoting, wide planed boards, some as wide as 14 inches among the clapboards, and tongue-in-groove pine paneling in varying widths are all either being reused, preserved or salvaged and awaiting future use.

“That’s the original ship lap siding,” Finley said, pointing to the exterior west wall of the structure.

Some other old treasures have been found in the process of rehab. During excavation for re-pouring part of the foundation, old glass bottles were found. Some small apothecary bottles, likely from the early days of the Porter Drug business, along with a number of pressed glass bottles inscribed with “Chas. H. Mayer & Co., Hammond, Ind.” were uncovered. Cindy is keeping them on display on a shelf in her office for now.

The building is being divided into four office suites. Tilden and Tilden will occupy the front, upstairs and down. Three other office areas will be on the ground floor.

The renovation is going more quickly than expected, although “You never know what you’ll find,” Cindy adds. “We hope to be in our offices by mid-summer.”

The entire structure is being refitted, inside and out. New plumbing, electrical works and insulation, covered with rough sawn cedar wood siding will all be completed. The siding will be painted a sage green and decorative wooden brackets, visible in the old photographs, will be replaced.

“We want to return it to its original look,” Tilden said

Though it will cost a bit more, it will preserve the character of the building and help it “blend in with the surrounding buildings,” Tilden added. “We’re trying to salvage as much as we can.”

Leasing arrangements can be made by calling Tilden and Tilden, 926-8679. Michael Finley Project Management can be reached at 464-3719.

Nick Tilden jokingly warned, however, that Finley “is not available until this project is finished.”


Posted 4/23/2004