Painstaking renovations went into Beacon’s historic Telephone Building, and it’s time for a new owner to reap the rewards.
Located on a highly-visible corner on Main Street, the Telephone Building might just stop you in your tracks if you’re out for a stroll in Beacon. The limestone-white cornice and column capitals contrast against brick, while the iron “Telephone Building” sign gleams with gold leaf. It didn’t always look this good, and you can thank a local art conservator for bringing it into the 21st-century.
But First, Some History.
The 4,086-square-foot brick beauty dates back to 1907 and was once filled with rows of switchboards and operators. The Hudson River Telephone Company housed the latest equipment in communications technology, including special booths on the first floor for “transient users of the service,” meaning even if you didn’t have a phone at home, you could still place a call at the Telephone Building. This might seem antiquated while you’re reading this on your smartphone, but in 1907, that was #kindofabigdeal.
When art conservator Deborah Bigelow purchased 291 Main Street back in 1992 for her art business, it needed all kinds of work. Bigelow made the Telephone Building one of her main projects in 2003, and she set about removing old paint, working on the roof and foundation, connecting the building to natural gas and other mechanical upgrades. Working part-time, she also restored brick walls, hardwood floors, and a variety of original features. These painstaking upgrades are evident in her before-and-after photos.
Old Building, New Purpose.
Smashcut to 2019, and the busy switchboard operators responding to a chorus of incoming calls are gone. The Telephone Building is now home to commercial tenants – creative types and entrepreneurs – drawing inspiration from the lofty, light-filled spaces with their 11-foot high ceilings, brick and plaster walls, ebonized oak windows, golden maple floors, and bronze hardware.
Looking to switch gears entirely? The Telephone Building is also zoned for “live/work” and could provide someone with a special opportunity for live/work space. “While the first floor front room would have to remain as office or other work space,” Bigelow explained, “the second floor could be reinterpreted to provide loft-like living with improvements to the bathroom and kitchen.”
Furthermore, zoning laws allow for a rooftop garden that would provide an unimpeded and panoramic view of nearby Mount Beacon.
Bonus: A Finished Basement.
Finally, the additional lower-level floor provides opportunity for a residential garden apartment, or can continue to be used for conferences, special events, or more work space.
Meet the Art Conservator.
For Bigelow, renovating the Telephone Building is the culmination of a 40-year-long career as an art conservator. Her extensive resume ranges from preserving a life-size 18th-century French carved and gilded eagle, to conserving gilded antiques for the late Berry B. Tracy, then curator-in-charge of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to lecturing and teaching at the Smithsonian.
291 Main Street, Beacon, NY is listed for $1,240,000.
For more information on the Telephone Building sale, visit telephonebuildingbeacon.com.