Work at the Anthe Building is plowing forward with a few necessary diversions and delays. As of now, we hope to begin fulfillment operations on June 15. Our new fulfillment employees start on June 1, so they likely will join our efforts to get the building ready and help install the packing tables and shelving.
There are things to celebrate: We have a paved driveway. The concrete is curing, so we can’t drive on it. But it rises gently and exactly to the shop floor. Also, the HVAC system is completely installed and awaiting electricity.
There are setbacks: The “walls” at the front of the building were not stable enough to keep as-is. The walls were only beadboard that was nailed to other pieces of beadboard until the whole shebang was somewhat sturdy. No studs or plates or headers. In fact, it was the frames for the doors and windows that kept everything steady.
So we took down these partitions. We are going to build stud walls and cover them with painted beadboard. So the end result will look much the same, but will be up to code.
Some revelations: Almost all of the architectural features inside the building are salvaged material. (This makes me happy.) None of the interior transom windows match. And some of the partitions on the second floor are clearly from another building.
We are keeping all of the salvaged items. We are cleaning them up and will reuse them throughout the building, keeping in the spirit of the building’s history.
Finally, the contractors dealt with “the trench.” The trench is an enclosed empty space between our building and the pawn shop next door. (These two buildings were both part of the original Anthe business.) The trench allows light and air into the south wall of the building. It also was filled with decades of trash and debris.
The contractors cleared the trench and unclogged the drain at the bottom, which was filled with decades of silt.
Coming soon: A new accessible (ADA) bathroom, which will be built to look like it belongs in the building. And replacement steel doors for the back entrance.
Our customer service lines are buzzing with customers asking what will happen to the 837 Willard St. storefront when the Anthe building comes on line. Will people still be able to visit the Willard Street shop? Where will the books, tools and apparel be sold? What about the woodworking classes?
Here’s the plan as of now.
Nothing will change at Willard Street for at least two years. The first phase of construction at the Anthe building is to build and perfect our fulfillment center. That requires money and work and cleaning and infrastructure. This phase is the most important to us. It will allow flexibility and a more personal touch when filling orders. And it will save us a load of money.
The second phase is to get the storefront up and running at the Anthe building, which is at 407 Madison Ave. (a short walk from Willard Street that I make every day). People want to visit and buy our stuff in person, and a dedicated storefront allows this.
The third phase is to build new editorial offices, photography studios and workshop spaces on the second floor. It’s important to me that all of us work together. Help each other. Try to make the company better and the Anthe building a better place to work. Megan and I will help fill boxes with orders at peak times. At slow times, the fulfillment people will help us in the workshops and creating content.
I do not like hierarchy.
Through all this, the Willard Street storefront will carry on as a classroom and storefront for Lost Art Press and Crucible. People can visit both places if they want – though there’s no guarantee who will be at Willard Street at any particular time.
We don’t have any plans beyond what I’ve written above. So any questions beyond this post have this answer: We don’t know.
So if you are planning on visiting our Willard Street storefront this summer, please do. We are there typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday (we are closed on Sunday). As always, knock on the front door, and we will be happy to let you in and give you a tour.
It’s been one bonkers week since we closed on our purchase of the Anthe Building, which will become our new headquarters here in Covington, Ky. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here.)
This blog entry is a brief update on a shed-load of work. But before you read further, please take a moment to digest the following.
This project is being done to code by licensed and bonded professionals. We are following all applicable federal, state and local guidelines. If you feel compelled to make some comment like “that’s not safe,” “that’s not right” or “you should do this instead” know that the world will never see your wisdom. I’m going to delete it. The only thing worse than armchair woodworkers are armchair plumbers, electricians and general contractors. Thank you.
We have three big goals before June 1, which is when we plan to start fulfilling all orders from here. (Note, we are actually already fulfilling some orders from here at Willard Street, breaking in the shipping software and building new processes.)
Clean the first floor room and make it safe and appropriate as a climate-controlled fulfillment center.
Add the bits we need to make accept and send deliveries (a paved driveway and a rollup door).
Build an ADA-compliant bathroom and amenities for our two new fulfillment employees.
This week was all about No. 1. How do we remove 125 years of oil from the floors and walls? The answer: Dawn Degreaser. I have never worked with the stuff before, but it is amazing. The clean-up crew wets the surface with the degreaser at full strength. They wait 10 minutes. Then they scrub with a stiff-bristled brush (or an electric floor scrubber). The sludge is sucked up in a shop vacuum immediately and disposed of properly.
The difference is shocking. In one week we went from a room that reeked of oil to barely a wisp of smell. In fact, the degreaser is working so well that we think we can use the original floor with a few repairs and patches, instead of covering everything with a floating floor.
Also in the process, the carpentry crews have been dismantling the modern improvements made to the building (I have been helping a bit because I love this process of discovery). Also, the HVAC crew put in the three mini-split heads for the first floor.
And we are starting to draw and plan for No. 3 (the bathroom).
What about No. 2 (paving and a new rear door)? Glad you asked. Site-prep and pouring begin next week. Then the rollup door can be installed and the broken modern metal doors at the back can be removed and sent to the scrap yard.
Editor’s note: We hired local historian Heather Churchman of Covington Uncovered to research the Anthe family, whose company, Anthe Machine Works, occupied 407 Madison Ave. for decades. You can read more about the history of the building here. And if you would like to help fund the Anthe Building restoration project, there are more details here.
The Anthe family created a legacy in Covington that lasted from 1897, when Frank D. Anthe founded Anthe Machine Works, until 2019, when Frank’s great-grandchildren closed the company. Anthe was Covington’s second-oldest business when it closed.
Frank Anthe built the Anthe headquarters at 407 Madison Ave.— the building just acquired by Lost Art Press, which plans to establish its own multi-generational legacy there.
Frank was born in 1868. His parents, Joseph Anthe (1826-1890) and Maria Susanna Brandner Anthe (1826-1899), were born in Hallenberg, in the Hochsauerland district, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Joseph’s occupation in 1870 was listed in the Covington City Directory as stove molder; in 1880, it was grocer.
Two years after Frank established his company, on Sept. 14, 1898, he married Clara Cecilia Greifenkamp (born in 1874). Flora was their first child, born in 1899, and Frank Joseph Anthe, the oldest son, was born in 1901. Frank and Clara’s three other boys—Elmer, Ralph and Arnold—died as young children.
Frank D. was one of the founders of the White Villa Church and Country Club in Northern Kentucky, about 18 miles south of Cincinnati. Along with his community-oriented lifestyle, Frank instilled a great work ethic and sense of entrepreneurship into his oldest son.
Frank died in 1919, leaving his oldest son to take over Anthe Machine Works at 15 years old. Clara had died in 1914. In some ways, the two elder Franks managed the easier days of the business.
Frank Joseph would go on to marry Grace Hale. They had two sons, Frank Joseph, Jr. and Donald, and a daughter, Kathleen.
Like his father before him, Frank Sr. was well known in the community: he was a founding member of Crestview Hills, Ky., and the city’s first mayor. The family lived in Fort Mitchell, in a Tudor-style home that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After Frank Sr. died in 1963, Donald (Don) was the next Anthe in line to take over the business. He was 34 when he took over.
Don was used to going to the Anthe shop when he was a teenager, as he told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1983: “It was a real treat…I think [dad took us there] to get us out of my mother’s hair… but my father made us come down here every Saturday. He would take us out for lunch. We got to go to a pool hall for a sandwich and a Coke.”
Everyone called Don “The Captain.” His brother Frank Jr. was known as “Sonny.”
Frank “Sonny” graduated from Beechwood High School and he was a member of the school’s first football team in 1945. He attended Villa Madonna College.
Don also graduated from Beechwood High School in 1948. He served in the U.S. Marine Corp during the Korean War from 1949-1953. Before his father died, Don was working as a traveling salesman for Bauer and Black, an elastic supports company.
After he became President of Anthe Machine Works in 1964, Don designed the company’s woodcutting tools by hand. The tools were sold all over the world. Times were really, really good, until, as that 1983 interview mentions, recession hit.
Don said, “[In the early ’80s, when the home building industry suffered], the furniture business just plain stopped.”
Manufacturers stopped buying Anthe’s tools.
“I can tell you right now our business is off by 75 percent from what it was before the recession,” Don said in the interview.
At the time, they had a staff of five, down from 10, including Don’s brother Frank.
Owning the building their grandfather had built provided the brothers with peace of mind: “[The company has managed to avoid losses], but that’s because we own the building. When I don’t feel like paying myself rent—when there’s no way I can afford it—I don’t. If we had a big loan to make payments on, we’d have been out of business a long time ago.”
At the time of the 1983 interview, the Anthe Building still had a stairway covered in turquoise paint that Don and Frank had “slapped around as children.” There was even a partially full bottle of whiskey that their father Frank Joseph Sr. had left in a drawer.
After Don and Frank retired, Don’s sons Mark and Doug took over the business for its last years.
Frank Jr., aka Sonny, died in 2013. Don, the Captain, was with us until November 4, 2020. Don’s obituary said that, “when [Don] was at home he enjoyed working in his yard and then taking naps with his beloved dog Willie.”
Their legacy will and still lives on.
Heather Churchman is a communications manager by day and an architecture-obsessed local historian by night. A passionate and curious spirit, she can often be found whispering sweet nothings to the buildings of Covington, Kentucky. Born in Oxford, Ohio, educated at Ohio University, and now a proud resident of #LoveTheCov, Heather is living proof that you can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can’t take Ohio out of the girl. Follow Heather’s explorations of local history and all the weird and wonderful things she uncovers along the way at Covington Uncovered on Instagram.
Not everyone has the money to afford one of the special products we’re offering to help fund the restoration of the Anthe Building, our new headquarters. And I’ll be honest: We are uneasy asking for help. It’s not in our nature.
But several readers have asked for a way to contribute directly, without having to purchase an item. Here are two ways. One, you can send money via PayPal to our PayPal account at email@example.com. Or you can contribute directly here. Honest, any amount helps. We are currently cleaning the walls with industrial Dawn and hot water. Even $20 buys us another bottle of purple Dawn and gets us another clean wall.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this point. It has made a big difference. Today the HVAC started to go in. And we have been removing the modern drop ceiling and floors in the storefront, which is where we will sell our books, tools and apparel.