One of the nice things about being a Realtor in Baker City is coming into contact with historic commercial properties that have such amazing stories behind them. We are currently marketing a building at 1901 Main Street in Baker that has such a history, as well as a bright future.
This building is special for other reasons: It has served most recently as a local events center, hosting town hall meetings, dances, Baker Orchestra concerts, fundraisers, holiday celebrations, company parties, Eastern Oregon Theater productions, art shows and exhibits, weddings, parties and more.
Sigmund Heilner, a pioneer Jewish merchant in Oregon, constructed the building in 1874. An immigrant from Bavaria, Heilner commanded an expedition that supplied guns to volunteers fighting an Oregon Indian War in 1856. He was involved in insurance, mining, hides, grain, wool and established the first bank and telephone system in Baker. As his business kept growing, so did the building, which encompassed not only a hotel, but a brothel of great reputation. The building still shows where a basement corner entrance (now filled in) accommodated discrete gentlemen.
The Heilner building has always been at the center of action downtown, at the intersection of Main and Court streets. Every parade, festival and rally that happens in Baker, happens in front of this building. It is a superb location!
The current owner renovated the building in 2012, bringing it up to modern codes, refinishing the first level wood floors, updating its utilities and installing a new roof. The basement, first floor and second floors are each 5,000 square feet and there’s a beautiful mezzanine above the main floor. An architect who specializes in renovating historic buildings guided the work.
- The main floor has two public bathrooms, three walk-in sidewalk display windows, an office with a huge walk-in safe, a large catering/break room, a utility room an electric closet.
- The building has two public entrances from the sidewalk and one alley entrance.
- The mezzanine has two bathrooms, an office, a dressing room and a conference room and two stairways to the mezzanine.
- The basement has one bathroom, three storage rooms and a large main room, a maintenance/shop area and one stairwell to the main floor.
- The second floor is mostly unused and has not been renovated, but it is clean and in good shape. It is wired and plumbed and ready to be hooked up for something. The top floor entrance is reachable from an exterior stairway from the street.
- The catering/break room is not a commercial kitchen but could be converted to one. For now, caterers bring their food in and use the room for preparation and serving.
The Heilner Building has lots of exciting possibilities and is priced incredibly well at $245,000. While the building no longer has dwellings, the city will permit living spaces to be constructed so it could have lofts, a hotel or up to 10 bed and breakfast rooms, most of which would have views of the downtown and/or mountains. The roof could also accommodate a “roof garden” for events.
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One of our jobs at Baker City Realty is to keep on top of the latest trends in the industry. So we thought this
blog post in circaoldhouses.com was definitely worth passing along. The blog is called “You Should Move To…” by Lindsey Riddell, an architectural historian with a passion for Victorian homes. She travels the country “scoping out beautiful, under-the-radar old house towns where big charm can be had for little cost” and recently visited Baker City.
She sums it up very well:
These days everyone is crazy about Portland, but I say abandon that grueling pace of life and those meagre real estate rations! Load up your wagons and head east of the Cascades where open space and tranquility abound; Why move to Oregon’s trendiest (and one of its rainiest) cities when you can live in one with four distinct seasons and just as much charm?
Riddell goes on to explain how incredible historical homes in good condition can be had for a bargain price, including folk gothic cottages, eclectic Queen Annes or craftsman bungalows of all sizes. She notes that many of the homes have sunrooms and beautifully maintained historic details like built-in bookshelves, fireplace surrounds, original hardwood floors and tile, wainscoting, tin ceilings and claw-foot tubs.
Because we’re in the local real estate industry, these truths are obvious to us, but sometimes an outsider makes the points astoundingly clear. At any given point in time, we may have a dozen or more classic, historic homes and businesses in great shape for around $100,000. Since we have an emphasis in artist relocation, this works out well, as many artists appreciate the traditional beauty of historic homes and storefronts.