Photo by Daniel Brown
When three run-down houses on the corner of Stimson and Cornwell streets went on on the market, Athens Bicycle owner Peter Kotses saw an opportunity to create a permanent home for his bike shop and also to preserve some important Athens history.
Starting in 1890, Stimson Avenue was lined with these brick homes and other buildings that were part of the Athens Brick Company. The plant was located where the post office now stands, and Stimson Avenue was a hub of industrial activity.
However, over 100 years later, the brick company was long gone and the the homes were in disrepair. The corner was an eyesore. The house that would eventually be our new bike shop (4 W. Stimson) was vacant and often required visits from law enforcement to remove criminal trespassers, and the other two homes were barely up to code as rentals.
As a native of Athens with a degree in history from Ohio University, Peter was excited at the thought of renovating these pieces of history into a new home for Athens Bicycle.
The business had been located in a rental space just down the street from these homes since 1998, and we had been looking for property to buy for some time. “It took a long time to find the right place,” he says. “I really liked the idea of renovating these historic buildings so they could again come a vital part of this neighborhood.”
The three homes that were for sale represented some of the last remaining buildings from an incredibly important era in Athens:
" … [The] Athens Brick Company first opened in 1890 on Stimson Avenue. The company shipped our special Athens Block bricks around the world, primarily for street paving. the City of Athens used these bricks extensively to pave our streets until paving methods transferred to asphalt during the first years of the 20th Century. Many Athens streets still feature these original Athens Block brick pavers on a large number of our main streets and back streets. For generations, locals, including Ohio University students, have fallen in love with these bricks as an important symbol of Athens." -- excerpted from The Essence of Athens
We purchased the dilapidated properties in 2010, with a plan to renovate and repurpose 4 W. Stimson (the vacant house) as Athens Bicycle’s new home. Since then we have been working project-by-project to turn what was once a disheveled corner into a beautiful setting that reflects our love of Athens.
After endeavoring to highlight this historic corner through renovation, landscaping and public art, we were thrilled to see the City of Athens formally endorse this type of development with its Essence of Athens in 2014.
The Essence of Athens is a strategic design plan for the city that calls on home-owners, business owners, real estate developers and city officials to include Athens-specific cultural themes into infrastructure improvements: “Ours is a community that is rich with history, culture, art, and soul, and our built environment should always reflect all of these things.”
The plan envisions locally-specific community design that creates spaces that are geographically specific, highlighting those very things that make us say, “oh, yes! that’s Athens!”
The Essence of Athens sets forth a “Design DNA of Athens,” a family of components that residents are encouraged to incorporate into public and private designs. Those components include physical characteristics such as use of brick and prominent exterior paint colors, as well as intangibles such as originality and creative ingenuity.
We feel that our continued improvements to Stimson Ave. truly exemplify the essence of Athens.