Category Archives: Hardlines Design Company

HDC Looks Back On and Forward to Black History Projects

In recognition of Juneteenth this month, HDC looks back on our projects that were associated with Black history.

In early 2002, HDC started a project to prepare a renovation master plan for the Gammon House in Springfield, Ohio. The Gammon House was built in 1850 by George Gammon, a Black abolitionist and is one of the few Underground Railroad sites in Ohio that was owned by a free person of color. HDC subsequently implemented the first phase of the renovation plan to stabilize the exterior.

The Gammon House before (left) and during (right) stabilization in 2007.

In 2003, HDC was commissioned to prepare a feasibility study to renovate the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus into a modern performing arts center. The Lincoln Theatre, an Egyptian Revival theatre that opened in 1928, was funded by a Black developer, designed by a Black architect and built by a Black contractor. HDC’s study was used to secure funding from the City of Columbus and Franklin County, with the remaining funds raised by private donors. The grand re-opening occurred in 2009, and the project received awards from Columbus Landmarks Foundation, Heritage Ohio and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

The interior of the theatre before (left) and after (right) rehabilitation in 2009.

In 2005, the City of Wichita commissioned HDC to prepare a redevelopment study for the Dunbar Theater, which was constructed in 1941 and named after Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the Black poet and author from Dayton, Ohio.

It was the focal point of a commercial and entertainment hub that served the McAdams neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods that were predominantly African-American in origin until 1963, when the theater closed. Power CDC, a developer that specializes in inner-city Wichita, acquired the building in 2007 and restored the façade and marquee in 2012-2014.

The Dunbar Theatre continues to be a work in progress.

In 2007, HDC prepared a Historic Structure Report and implemented the stabilization and exterior rehabilitation of the Lathrop House, which was built c. 1850 by Lucian Lathrop, a prominent white abolitionist in Sylvania, Ohio. The house contains an Underground Railroad Museum in the new basement and HDC completed an update to the Historic Structure Report in 2021 to rehabilitate the interior of the house and make it accessible.

The Lathrop House before (left) and in 2021 (right).

In 2017, HDC prepared a master plan to rehabilitate the Ozem Gardner House in Sharon Township near Worthington, Ohio, which was built in the 1840s by a local abolitionist, into offices for the Flint and Walnut Grove Cemeteries. The Gardner Family donated the original land to create the cemetery in 1821. The pandemic set the project back from its goal of opening in 2021. It is currently anticipated to be completed in 2022.

The Ozem Gardner House before (left) and after restoring the original masonry window openings (right).

In 2020, the City of Athens commissioned HDC to prepare a renovation master plan to convert the Mount Zion Baptist Church, built in 1904 by a Black congregation, into a community center and museum of African American Appalachian culture. The study was used to obtain a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to start the rehabilitation process.

The Mount Zion Baptist Church in Athens, Ohio.

HDC recently worked with architect O.A. Spencer on the interior renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing and Cultural Arts Complex in Columbus, whose mission is to connect community through the arts by engaging central Ohio through performing, cultural and educational programs of high artistic merit that increase and disseminate knowledge regarding the vast and significant contributions of Black Americans to the culture and history of America and the world.

The main Auditorium with new flooring, ceiling and lights, looking through the updated column (left) and looking into the Lobby past the mural by artist Wali Neil (right). Photos by Shellee Fisher Photography.

And finally, HDC is very honored to have been awarded the project to prepare a Historic Structure Report of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrence County, across the Ohio River from Huntington, West Virginia. The church was built c. 1849 and is one of the first Black churches constructed west of the Appalachian Mountains. The team is looking forward to starting work in August!

The Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in South Point, Ohio.

Ziti Looks Back on a Productive 2021

Ziti always looks as if she’s having a blast at The Gated Dock (left). Ziti looking not too impressed at the ribbons she’s racked up for 2021 (right).

Ziti participated in 32 FastCAT races and earned enough points to achieve BCat, DCat, and FCAT levels! She is currently the fastest beagle in the country with her fastest three runs averaging 26.07 MPH. Ziti, however, looks much happier actually running the races than posing with her awards.


Click HERE for a copy of the 2022 Ziti Motivation Calendar

Interesting Feature of a Water Meter and Backflow Preventer Building

The southwest corner (left) and interior of the building while under construction (left)

HDC was on M-Engineering’s team to design two buildings to house new backflow preventers and water meters where Ohio State University’s water system connects with the City of Columbus’ infrastructure. Construction completion was delayed due to issues in delivering the specified brick, but the contractor was able to achieve substantial completion in December of 2021.  The available infrastructure made traditional floor drains very expensive, so the team was charged with coming up with another solution if the equipment suffered a catastrophic failure and flooded the building.

Our solution: flap valves on the rear elevation that only open with sufficient water pressure!

The southeast corner shows the round openings that are the flap valves that release water during a catastrophic failure

Stained Glass and Faceted Glass at Jefferson Barracks Chapel

The exterior (left) and interior (right) of the chapel at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis

One of the seven national cemetery locations HDC is investigating with Tetra Tech is Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. The project here is not the historic superintendent’s lodge, but a chapel built in the 1970s. Since it is such a recent building, the team was lucky to be able to visit the studio of Emil Frei & Associates in St. Louis, the firm that designed and installed the stained glass windows in the 1970s and the faceted glass skylight in the early 1980s. In addition, Stephen Frei led our tour and demonstrated how faceted glass is made by chipping away at a 1″ thick block of glass. He also came to the site to inspect the skylight, which he himself had personally installed. Stephen Frei also explained how the stained glass trees around the perimeter were intended to blend in with the trees outside and that the faceted glass skylight was renamed “The History of Humanity” from “The History of Religion” to be accepted for use in a federal building.

  The faceted glass skylight in the chapel (left) and Stephen Frei explaining how faceted glass works (right)

HDC Starts Work on the Historic Meade House in Symmes Township

Northeast corner of the Meade House in Symmes Township

HDC is leading a team that includes engineers from Elevar Design Group to prepare a feasibility study to rehabilitate the Meade House in Symmes Township into a banquet facility. The house was built in 1906 on an over 200-acre farm for Dr. Charles C. Meade, a homeopathic physician, Pulte Medical College of Cincinnati professor of obstetrics, Homeopathic Medical Society president, and former president and director of the Hamilton County Fair Board. Dr. Meade was born in Fort Branch, Indiana in 1862, the son of Stephen Walter Meade and his wife Sarah Jane Rutledge, who was of English descent. Dr. Meade graduated from Central Normal College at Danville, Indiana, in 1886 before earning a medical degree from Pulte Medical College in Cincinnati in 1890. He went on to post graduate studies at the New York Post-Graduate School of Medicine and Surgery. As part of the teaching staff at Pulte College, Dr. Meade served as chair of embryology and junior obstetrics from 1898 to 1902. From 1902 to his retirement in 1905, he held a full professorship and oversaw both junior and senior obstetrics. Dr. Meade lived in this house with his second wife, continuing to assist neighbors with difficult births in his retirement. He sold the house in 1917 and moved to the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati.

HDC President Spotlighted by Women Presidents’ Organization

HDC President Charissa W. Durst was recently highlighted as a “Member of the Moment” by the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO). Charissa was invited to join the WPO Columbus Chapter II in 2014 and she has continued to be an active member. WPO was founded in 1997 by Dr. Marsha Firestone as the ultimate affiliation for successful women entrepreneurs worldwide. Its mission is to accelerate business growth, enhance competitiveness, and promote economic security for women-led companies through confidential and collaborative peer-learning groups.


HDC Work Featured in Toledo Blade Article: HDC Completes Renovations and Updates to Lathrop House Historic Report

The Toledo Blade recently published a newspaper article on the Lathrop House in Sylvania, Ohio. HDC was quoted in the article about their involvement in the rehabilitation of the house.

In 2006, HDC was commissioned by Toledo Metroparks to prepare construction documents to stabilize the Lathrop House using transportation enhancement funds from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The house had just been moved from its original site to a location within a city park to save it from demolition. At the request of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO), HDC also prepared a historic structure report to guide the proposed rehabilitation of the property, which was completed in 2007. Upon OHPO’s approval of the report, HDC submitted construction documents to reinforce the first-floor structure, which consisted of tree limbs with bark still intact, rehabilitate the windows, replace the roof, and repair the siding to make the house weathertight.

The house was built in 1840 in the popular Greek Revival style of its time. In addition, HDC’s investigations revealed that what was assumed to be an addition was actually a separate older house, which had been repurposed and attached to the Lathrop House as an addition.

In 2014, the new basement was renovated into an Underground Railroad museum exhibit. Since then, visitors have been asking to tour the first and/or second floors, and in 2020 Heritage Sylvania commissioned HDC to update their 2007 Historic Structure Report to include the 2014 renovation and to recommend first and second floor rehabilitations, including the location of an elevator. Click here for a copy of the updated report.

Check out these before and after pictures of the house’s exterior renovations:

The Lathrop House under construction in 2008 (left) and the Lathrop House in 2020 (right)


6 Tips for Keeping Your Company Strong in an Economic Downturn

6 Tips for Keeping Your Company Strong in an Economic Downturn

If you are a business owner, steering your firm through 2020’s pandemic, economic shutdown and recession is probably one of the most stressful things you’ve ever faced.  But sometimes slow business can spark ideas, force decisions, and open up opportunities. When I started my architecture firm in 1990, it was in part because of a recession — there weren’t many other options for me since no firms were hiring at that point.  In 2008, we came through it, stronger, and also wiser. Now, as 2020 brings more uncertainty every day, here are a few things I’ve learned in my 30 years running a business that have helped our firm stay strong and stable no matter what’s happening in the economy.

  1. Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask for the contract or deal. This was probably my very first lesson. Right as I got out of grad school, and was applying for jobs, I was getting a lot of responses that firms just weren’t hiring, didn’t have any openings, etc. This was in 1990, and that was my first clue that the economy was heading south. So, I took an internship with the National Parks Service for the summer. It was a job I had worked the previous two summers. When it was over in the fall, there was still quite a lot of work left to be done. So, even though we were fresh out of school and had only recently formed our company, my business partner and I made the pitch: Hire us to finish the project. We knew the project well, and we were inexpensive thanks to our youth. It worked, and we got the job. Lesson learned: Even when nearly all signs point to no, ask anyway.
  2. Stay on top of information about trends in your industry. During the first year of owning my firm, I went to a conference and heard a keynote speech about the future of the architecture industry. The speaker predicted there would be major consolidation and that the small firms that survived would be highly specialized. There were other industry news reports saying similar things, and just observing what was happening around me supported it. Back then, a “small” architecture firm by SBA standards was about $1M to $2M in annual revenue. Now, it’s more like $25M. And that change was caused by exactly what that speaker predicted — small firms got bought and folded into big firms. Watching this unfold, we stayed on course in our niche — historic preservation work. It worked, as we developed expertise and relationships that solidified and strengthened our reputation.
  3. But also diversify. This sounds counterproductive, but what I mean is to find your niche. Find that pocket in your market where there aren’t a lot of competitors and truly differentiate yourself. Then, make sure that you are fully covering the market to get diversified revenue streams. For me, that meant specializing in historic preservation work and developing capabilities in the related field of cultural resources. Our firm had two divisions for quite a long time — an architecture division and a cultural resources division that dealt with historic artifacts and resources, more on the archaeology side for site reviews. So, within our specialized niche, we had diversified into different types of projects. We also do a lot of government work for publicly owned buildings. But we also do private restorations too. So, again, diversification within your niche helps you make pivots when different parts of the economy weaken.
  4. Commit to high-level service. When firms get really cost-conscious during downturns, service is always part of the equation. Can you do the project right the first time? Will you pay attention to the details and get them right, and take care of your client? Many businesspeople have had the experience of choosing the lowest-priced proposal when trying to save money, or, alternately, selecting the big flashy name because they cut their prices during a downturn. But in both situations, it’s not uncommon to be disappointed in the quality or service. If you have a specialty and can deliver better than anyone else, that market differentiation can pay off when you are suddenly faced with a lot of competitors when work is scarce because of a downturn.
  5. Develop partnerships. When work is scarce and there isn’t much to bid on or submit proposals for, sometimes the angle is to join forces with a firm that has a different specialization than you, so together you are stronger than other bigger competitors. You’ll have deeper, more extensive expertise and can still compete with the big flashy names on price. Building these relationships with partners you can trust and have experience working with can be an advantage in a downturn.
  6. Say yes to the volunteer or board opportunity. Many times being asked to volunteer for a trade or community organizations, or to take on a board position in one of those organizations can feel like an obligation you don’t have time to commit to. But say yes anyway, and put your all into it. it strengthens your reputation. In turn, doing great work and showing your capabilities to a new audience is one of the most worthy investments in your company you can make. Relationships and trust pay dividends all the time, but especially in a downturn. But you have to build them when times are good.

As you can see, weathering an economic downturn is about expanding your lens for opportunity and potential. How you handle your business relationships can often be just as important as how you handle your P&L sheet. And that view has served me well for 30 years and counting.

Fall 2019

HDC President Charissa Durst receives Smart 50 Business Award

Since 2014, the Smart Business Columbus Smart 50 Awards have recognized the top executives of the 50 smartest companies in central Ohio for their ability to effectively build and lead successful organizations. All 50 winners were honored at a special celebration, and three organizations received specialty awards for their achievements in three category areas — innovation, impact and sustainability. Additionally, all guests were treated to a keynote address on what it takes to lead a successful “smart” company. Click here to read about what set the 50 honorees apart.

Charissa Durst posing next to her star at the Smart 50 awards reception in July

Five Oaks Historic Home project in the news

HDC teams with The Tradesmen Group to work on the Governor’s Residence

HDC is working once again with The Tradesmen Group, this time on a project at the Governor’s Residence in Bexley, Ohio. HDC had previously worked with The Tradesmen Group as the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) representative during the construction phase of the exterior restoration of the federal courthouse in Toledo, Ohio. The two firms teamed to compete for the project to renovate/replace the existing pergola and portico roof on the rear elevation of the Ohio governor’s mansion, which was designed by Robert Gilmore Hanford, a Columbus-based architect, for industrialist Malcolm D. Jeffrey. The mansion  was built during 1923–1925 and the Jeffreys lived in the house until Malcom’s death in 1930, at which point it was sold to his sister Florence Jeffrey Carlile. In the 1940s, Mrs. Carlile expanded the house with an addition of a screened garden room on the first floor that led to a covered portico and extended into a wooden pergola. On top of the portico was a small rooftop terrace that served an expanded master bedroom suite. Upon Mrs. Carlile’s death in 1954, the house passed into the hands of the Very Reverend Charles U. Harris, who sold the house to the State of Ohio in 1957, and since then it has been used as the official governor’s residence — or a meeting site if the governor chose to live elsewhere.

The current project is to replace the wooden portico, which itself is a replacement of an earlier version, with a structure that will have a life cycle of at least 40 years. The roof over the portico will be replaced with one that will allow the roof terrace to be more actively used, and any necessary structural repairs will be completed.

North elevation of the existing pergola

HDC Finds Success Working as a Consultant to Engineering Firms

In the past five years, HDC has been teaming with other architectural and/or engineering firms on a variety of higher education projects. At The Ohio State University, HDC has teamed with Monks Engineers on a variety of infrastructure improvement projects that required some architectural support. For example, at the OSU Newark campus, HDC designed a screening wall for a new generator outside of Reese Hall and also designed a set of concrete steps for access up the hillside. On the main campus, HDC provided details and specifications for historic material demolition and repair to support the replacement of electrical panels in Orton Hall. OSU also asked HDC to design a corten steel screening fence for the equipment yard with a custom pattern, but later determined that an electrical project could not fund a custom fence.

Screening fence and access steps for the new generator at Reese Hall at OSU’s Newark campus

Model of the proposed screening fence for Orton Hall, whose design uses sedimentary layers to reference the building’s history as the home of the Geology Department. The model was built by CNS Engraving of Powell, and creatively uses cinnamon to obtain the rusty finish.

Ziti Graduates (barely) from Foundation Obedience Class!

Since the middle of August, Ziti has been in a weekly foundation obedience class held at the veterinarian’s office next door to HDC’s location in Clintonville. At the end of September, Ziti had her final evaluation. She lost points for sniffing while heeling (the beagle in her is absolutely fascinated with the smells on the floor), and she broke formation during her 1-minute sit-stay and her 2-minute down-stay (she only holds a stay when the reward is great — like dinner). She also didn’t manage to stand still the first time but did pretty well on the second try. However, she was perfect coming when called, which the instructor said is the most important command to know. So, overall, she scored about a 75. Charissa’s husband, Don, noted that Donut did much better at her graduation evaluation; he had to be reminded that Donut was almost a year old at that point and had already been through two Puppy Kindergarten and one Basic Obedience class with another instructor.

Ziti waits patiently for her turn during the final exam

Ziti in her graduation cap and gown

However, Ziti didn’t just spend all seven weeks in class and doing homework. One of the class assignments was to visit a new place every week. So, Ziti got to visit Highbanks Metro Park one weekend and had fun splashing and posing.

Ziti wading happily through a creek at Highbanks Metro Park

Ziti poses on a log near the Olentangy River at Highbanks Metro Park