Tile flooring

Historic DeLand Building Restoration Effort Receives $500,000 Grant

DELAND – Restoring a building over 100 years old is guaranteed to encounter a setback or two.

Some hiccups cost money while others cost time.

Those working to bring the JW Wright Building, 258 W. Voorhis Ave., back to life have experienced both.

“It looks like hell now, but it will be a beautiful corner,” restoration expert Mark Shuttleworth said on March 11.

Shuttleworth’s confidence in what the building will become was bolstered this month by a $500,000 grant, no match required.

Over the past several months, the state government has reviewed more than 150 grant applications for African-American projects of cultural and/or historical value to be funded with federal COVID-19 economic stimulus money.

“We placed 14th out of 154, so we’re in really good shape,” said Shuttleworth, who manages the restoration project.

Mario Davis, executive director of Greater Union Life Center Inc., a DeLand-based nonprofit that owns the building, said the effects of the pandemic have slowed them down the most in the past two years.

“It’s been a challenge,” Davis said. “Now we seem to be moving full speed ahead.”

The funds will be available in July and the federal government wants them to be spent within a year.

First on Shuttleworth’s list is the foundations, especially those on the east wall.

He said he suffered damage from rainwater coming down from the gable roof of the nearby church and collecting in the small gap between the buildings.

Shuttleworth, owner of DeLand’s Florida Victorian Architectural Salvage, said the hope is the church will install a gutter to direct water away from the Wright building and straight into a drain.

Part of the grant application required submission of a budget indicating how the requested funds would be spent.

Shuttleworth estimates that stabilizing the sand-lime brick foundation of the east wall will cost $22,000.

Here is the plan of how the rest of the funds will be spent:

  • Architectural and Engineering Services – $23,915
  • Repair or reconstruction of sand-lime brick walls – $73,000
  • Restoration of cast iron grates – $1,000
  • Restoration of the cast iron column and wood finishes in the ceiling of the sectional corner showcase – $4,000
  • Cleaning exterior brick walls, applying waterproof sealant and a minimum of two coats of paint – $30,000
  • HVAC system – $45,000
  • Insulation – $10,000
  • Electricity – $90,000
  • Plumbing – $40,000
  • Fire Suppression – $12,000
  • Computer system/security – $10,000
  • Construction and finishing of first floor walls – $10,000
  • Tiling – $12,000
  • Laying tongue-in-groove antique wood flooring – $6,500
  • Installation of antique metal tiles on the ceiling of the main floor – $20,000
  • Build the walls of the second floor with gypsum/plaster; finishes; doors; carpet – $20,000
  • Original Interior Straight Staircase Finish – $4,585
  • Painting the walls and interior elements; using a clearcoat on some antique walls and door areas – $15,000
  • Reconfiguration of exterior doors on south wall for wheelchair access – $20,000
  • Restoration of certain windows on the east and south sides – $31,000

Davis originally hoped the project could be completed by the end of 2021; now he hopes for the end of 2022.

“Mark laughs when I say that,” Davis said, laughing himself.

Remembering the past, planning for the future

The grant application includes extensive information about James W. Wright, for whom the building is named.

As a successful businessman and farmer, Wright devoted resources to developing the two-story commercial building at the corner of West Voorhis and South Clara Avenues in 1920.

Wright operated several businesses in the building, including a cafe, confectionery, merchant, and beer and billiard room.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places just over a year ago.

Just a few months ago, enough red paint had peeled off to reveal the cafe’s name.

Restoration expert Mark Shuttleworth reviews the work still to be done in the process of restoring the JW Wright Building on Friday March 11.

“I was here just looking at the building, which I do sometimes, and all of a sudden I could see ‘Mecca’ written when the sun hit it just right,” said said Shuttleworth.

He said he wanted to include “Mecca” somewhere outside the building in a further nod to Wright and his wife who ran the cafe.

During the 36 years that Wright owned and managed the building, he also rented storefronts to black and white merchants, “an unusual business and social arrangement in Jim Crow times,” according to the grant application.

Wright was also known for his collaborations with prominent black educators, including Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, and RR Moton.

Davis said he hopes to see the corridor once again become a thriving business district in the black community.

Plans call for the first floor to house a business incubator and rotating exhibits on black history in Volusia County.

Davis is also meeting with potential partners for a health care component.

Plans for the second floor include fewer than a dozen offices, a conference room, and open space that will be shared by businesses and nonprofits.

Davis said the goal is for local nonprofits to become more impactful by realizing what services they are duplicating and what needs are not being met.

Davis praised those who helped the project through the process, especially Shuttleworth.

“The day I walked into the building, I had no idea how we were going to do this project,” Davis said. “[Mark] took on this project as a personal endeavor and we are eternally grateful to him.”