"Unique" is the one word Dan Seftner uses repeatedly to describe the new Windsor Block Historic Lofts downtown. His longtime dream to restore Windsor Block and create a collection of living spaces never before seen in Rapid City is nearly complete.
On the street level, the Windsor Block Building houses Batchelder's Plummer Piano & Organ and The Clock Shop. The second floor of the Windsor Block has been used as a storage space for decades. Senftner, who owns the building, divided the 12,000 square feet into nine upscale lofts. There are two one-bedroom lofts, six two-bedroom lofts and a master loft in the corner where the keyboard used to be.
The first thing in the lofts that catches the eye is the original 1886 wood flooring. The boards naturally vary from honey to nutmeg in color, as Seftner covered them with just a clear seal and not a stain.
"The floor boards were black and grimy and it took a lot of work to strip them down and restore them," Seftner said. "Of course, there have been one million things laid over top of them since this building was first built."
The second feature that pops out is the height of the curved-topped windows. At 104 inches tall and 28 inches wide, they pull in beams of sunlight to spread throughout each room. Milky marble windowsills echo the creamy 8-inch molding trim.
Original wooden beams weave across the 10-foot ceilings, highlighted by the sun streaming through glass windows placed in the top couple feet of the walls.
The seamless blending of cherry cabinets and shiny stainless steel appliances in the lofts proves that the old and the new can mix to produce an upscale atmosphere.
The complexes that face the alley behind Windsor Block have a more modern feel, as they are in the part of the building built in the mid-1950s. Black wire beams are laced overhead with the original ductwork punctuating the ceiling like silver bullets. Stained concrete floors are reminiscent of European mod designs.
Both the exterior and interior walls are padded with six inches of installation, with the same type of stud work used to block sound in movie theaters. The sound of cars buzzing down St. Joseph Street does not penetrate the walls with even a gentle hum.
The lofts have a state-of-the-art fire detection system that is directly linked to the fire department.
"We spent a fortune on fire codes," Seftner said. "I told the chief that this is probably the safest building in town."
Seftner said the biggest challenge was designing a new floor plan in an existing building without chopping up the space too much. He toured historic lofts in Denver's Larimer Square and in Sioux Falls and North Dakota.
Jean Oleson-Kessloff of the Historic Preservation Society in Rapid City also conducted extensive research for the Windsor Block renovation.
"I designed a lot of the big stuff, but when it came down to paint selection and choosing cabinets and knobs and door handles, my wife, Deb, did all of that work," Seftner said.
Seftner bought everything used to furnish the apartments locally.
"I've lived here 31 years, and I like to support the local businesses," he said.
During the restoration process, they found a Chicago Tribune from 1946, a Shrine Circus poster from 1957 and a box of Nibs candy that cost a nickel. Those items are being framed and are going to hang in the spacious, 6-foot-wide hallways.
Seftner restored the antique wooden door from the 1800s from what was formerly Jerry's House of Pizza downtown to close off the stairway that opens onto St. Joseph Street. The staircase's entryway is a marble sheet from the ladies rooms of the old Donaldson's Department Store.
The apartments cost more than most others in the Rapid City area, but Seftner says that is offset by the convenience of being right downtown and the amount of money saved by not using a car as often.
"You can get everything you need within three or four blocks from here," he said. "You can get coffee at Alternative Fuel in the morning, eat at the Firehouse for supper, watch a movie at the Elks, work out at one of the many fitness clubs and do your banking. All of your eating, shopping and living is right here."
Hopefully, more apartments like this will emerge from the hidden lofts downtown, which will help boost the economy, according to Seftner.
"There would be nothing better than to see 20 to 30 more units like this downtown," he said. "Adding 60 to 70 people would provide tons of energy to the downtown area."
Seftner's apartments have already gone quickly, with six of the nine already rented even though they are not yet finished.
The tenants are all at least in their mid-40s, and they all work in or near the downtown area.
"I had one tenant who decided to rent one after only 15 minutes of looking at the apartments,"Seftner said.
The Windsor Block was built by Robert Flormann in 1886, and Seftner was able to track down his great-niece.
She will be attending the open house on Friday, May 1, which will help kick off Historic Preservation Month.
If you go
What: Windsor Block Historic Lofts Open House
When: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, May 1
Where: Above Batchelder's Plummer Piano & Organ, 629 St. Joseph St.