Built in 1888 by Anton Simons, the aptly named Simons Livery once stabled horses for visitors to the Carver County court house for trials and other county business. Originally, the barn had a central bay flanked with stalls for horses and carriage parking with a hayloft above. Closely associated with Simons’ “Courthouse Saloon” next door, the livery continued to stand through the evolution of the vehicle and waning use of liveries until it was reinvented into everything from a candy store to law offices.
The distinctive “Chaska Brick” is known for its unique yellow hues, high clay content, and close ties to the history of the city it came from. The brick heralds the building’s protected status as a locally designated historic resource and a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) building. By the time our client purchased the property in 2014, the roof was structurally unsound, and a web of stairways, level changes and poorly planned bathrooms limited the efficient use of the pure “monopoly-house” volume contained within the historic Chaska brick shell.
For a building that would have been regarded as utilitarian in its day, the renovation of the livery transformed this barn into a contemporary and functional opposite. Long gone are the dirt floors and pony stalls that the simple historic form narrates. In its place, a contemporary homage to the historic Chaska Brick elevates one’s appreciation of the protected resource.
Originally intended as an “urban cabin” for the owners to escape their professional city life on weekends, their love for the quaint life Chaska offered drew them in to purchase a second historic property blocks away to take up permanent residence in the city. In addition to using the livery as a private workshop for personal projects, they currently operate the livery as a rentable community event, gallery and party space and corporate off-site studio complete with modern amenities.
The “ship in a bottle” parti transforms the iconic exterior façade into the main attraction on the interior, through a seemingly delicate structural framework. The new lofted ends of the second level offer lateral support to the 130-year old front and back façades through a precisely detailed structural frame, embedded and disguised as the storefront towards the street. Tiebacks to the loft are designed as a nod towards the historic star-shaped anchor plates that are still preserved on the exterior of the livery today. At the back façade, a structural steel bridge allows occupants to access the former hayloft opening onto a new rooftop deck of a rebuilt shed at the back of the building – a welcome outdoor resource for a building with no yards.
Open space, a significant kitchen and contemporary detailing presents a crisp interior that openly embraces the historic shell and the owner’s relevant collection of curiosities, art and repurposed finds. Large fir beams original to the building were salvaged during the roof rehabilitation and recycled into a barn door at the back shed, a rugged work bench, and several mobile work tables serving everything from crafts and corporate off-sites, to Thanksgiving dinner.
While incorporating a sleek palette of materials that hints at its rustic past, the clean lines, metal, and glass of the building’s new interior are well suited to today’s demand for modern amenities. The building boasts hydronic in-floor radiant heat throughout allowing the polished concrete to keep bare feet warm and comfortable on cold days. Flanking insulated gallery walls, and a newly structured and insulated roof supports opportunities for natural light through set-back shed dormers that respect the extremely close property lines and neighbors within arms’ reach, while maintaining thermal comfort in the building. Lighting and mechanical systems are carefully integrated into the ostensibly floating second floor plane, fed from the core of the “ship” which is cladded with carefully detailed wood panels and doors.