Frie Building, Restoration Award

108 South Main Street
Saint Jo, TX

Historic Restoration Award

This award acknowledges a historic resource that has been properly restored to a specific time period. Projects must fully demonstrate adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration. A special emphasis is placed on completed projects where owners, architects and contractors practice exceptional care in respecting the original fabric and setting of a historic structure.

Located 1.5 hours North of Dallas/Fort Worth in the Red River Valley, Saint Jo is positioned on the Historic Chisholm trail, now better known as Highway 82. Saint Jo is the oldest town in Montague County, Texas. In 1889, Dr. Frie bought a two story building located at 108 South Main Street on the square; he added a Mesker Brothers metal front façade, thus creating the Frie Building.

This building housed his medical office upstairs with café and hardware store on the first floor. It sits near the center of the Northeast side of the downtown square. The Mesker Brothers of Saint Louis galvanized metal façade on the second story, and a cypress and glass storefront at street level made it an impressive building for its day. Originally the second floor, in addition to Dr. Frie’s office, had a large open area used for musical concerts and dances and for occasional traveling theater presentations. There were also two small apartments upstairs for single men, which were in use until the early 1980’s.

After Dr. Frie sold the building, and moved to Duncan OK, it was divided between two owners and for decades no repairs were done. In the early 2000’s, one half was condemned by the City of Saint Jo; the other half was gifted to the Saint Jo Historical Society after the owner’s death. The two-story building had been in decline for decades and was showing neglect when it was purchased by the Frie Building Preservation Corporation. The building was purchased by the Frie Building Preservation Corporation in Spring of 2009 and the restoration was started in the Fall. The building project was daunting, but John Sickles thought it was a building that visually defined the town square and should not be lost.

The first need was stabilizing the galvanized metal Mesker Brother’s front. The Metal façade had come loose from its supports in the center and had started sagging. The metal siding was removed and stored while the front structure and supports were rebuilt. After tapping out all the dents and bullet holes the galvanized tin was reattached. Hull Restoration in Fort Worth, TX built new upstairs windows using wood that closely matched the original wood and used the same wooden peg construction. The roof was then completely rebuilt and reinforced. The rear wall, constructed of random stacked stone with a rubble fill, also needed repairs so it was partially rebuilt and completely repointed. One part actually collapsed as the work was just starting.

The street-level storefront was in bad shape, with broken windows and a collection of mismatched parts pieced together over the years into a flat front. Cypress lumber was milled to match the original wood dimensions and the indented footprint of the first storefronts were rebuilt using wooden pegs. Moisture damage left very little of the interior usable but the wood ceilings are original. ‘The Frie’ opened its doors as an expansion to the Davis and Blevins Gallery a year ago this February. The renovation and restoration was so extensive and breathtaking that it caught the attention of Western Art & Architecture magazine, which ran a feature article on the Frie Building and it’s restorers: John and Donna Sickles.