He had pulled up the old fence from around the pool at the Broadview Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, a large project he was hired to restore for the Drurys. Lew Lewis had simply removed the old boards and suddenly knew that the wood planks were still perfectly fine that he could find a use for them somewhere. Many years, moves and projects later...
His new office, now complete, brick floors, venitian plaster walls and the handcrafted ceiling and beams are no exception to the immaculate detail that Lewis adheres to.
The office was once just another bedroom with a ceiling that sat just a little too low for Lewis’ taste. And so, he took the ceiling out and found twelve normal support beams; none could be adjusted or removed without raising some serious questions about structural integrity.
After about half a minute, Lewis had a plan. He would do to these beams what he had done to the beams in the Drury in downtown Santa Fe. No removal, no movement at all, just some creative cosmetic work. He and our superintendent would create twelve boxes that would encase the beams giving the appearance of the old Santa Fe style scaffolding while not changing the beams structural purpose.
“You’ll hear the name John Gaw Meem a lot.” Lewis said, who took a few seconds to make sure I heard the name correctly. “He designed the old hospital. So when it came time to remodel it into the Drury, I did what I thought he would do.”
The old St. Vincent’s hospital has a very interesting history. For instance, it used to be an orphanage run by a rag tag team of cabbage stealing nuns. John Gaw Meem, a man best known for bringing a modern mindset to the rigidness of traditional Santa Fe buildings, designed St. Vincent’s Hospital that took up an entire city block with its stacked, block windows and sharp, angular facades. Eventually, the beautiful building fell into disrepair. A new hospital was built and sadly for almost a decade Mr. Meem’s grand building was used mainly as a movie set.
It wasn’t that no one could think what to do with the looming space. It was in the middle of downtown two-hundred-year-old Santa Fe, surrounded closely by galleries, narrow brick streets, and a cathedral. Every foot fall was steeped with deep history and local lore. It would take a company dedicated to problem solving and a problem solver dedicated to preserving history in order to make any real progress. That’s where the Drurys came in; hiring the one person they thought was capable of helping them restore the grandure of a Santa Fe icon. His knowledge of the Historic guidelines that needed to be upheld, experience with difficult restoration issues and application of techniques that are both time and money saving.
But Santa Fe isn’t the only thing that has a story to tell. The fence Lewis rescued from the Drury’s Wichita hotel stood as a guard to the pool. Thinking it could be of use somewhere, Lewis had packed it up and moved from state to state, home to home, just waiting for the opportunity to use it in some new way. That fence now hangs, lined up with the John Gaw Meem inspired beams, over his desk in a rustic, chicly shabby covering. Every piece was put through a planer, a wood resurfacing contraption that shaved away years of different paint colors. Grey, green, an awful brown-salmon color that thankfully is only on one board. Layer on top of layer, all meticulously shaved off so that the sunny wood underneath could shine through.
As the new Onsite office receives its final details, more and more attention and history are poured into every nook and cranny. It's that kind of attention Lewis will bring to the buildings and homes of our community.