Just a few years back, most Lawrence residents probably didn't perceive the 600 block of Massachusetts Street as part of what the downtown business district was all about.
Although the block lay within the geographical definition of downtown, its vacant buildings and faded storefronts didn't fit the atmosphere created by the blocks of boutiques and restaurants to the south.
Today, since such improvements as the renovation of Liberty Hall, the opening of the Free State Brewing Co. and La Prima Tazza coffee shop, and construction of the Riverfront Plaza around the corner, it's often difficult to find a parking place there.
"I'm glad something's happening in this block. I used to hear people say that this was a designated blight area," said Mary Terry, one of the owners of the building at 615 Mass.
That 106-year-old building is the recipient of the latest facelift in the 600 block. For the past several months, Mrs. Terry's husband, Allen, has been general contractor on the renovation and remodeling of the building in preparation for the opening of a new restaurant called Quinton's Bar and Deli.
The new tenants, Brant Quinton and Steve Gaudreau, opened their restaurant Friday.
THE BUILDING had been vacant for about 18 months since Spa, Pool & Fireside, the last in a series of stores that sold wood stoves, moved to another location. The Allens and Gary Adams, who bought the building in 1985, had operated one of those stores, and Terry Allen said the building, in its previous condition, was pretty well suited for that purpose.
"The building was in pretty raw shape," he said. "There was no heating or air conditioning. We heated the building with wood stoves. It was a bare shell, basically."
Although the new interior is a mix of art deco styling, yellow pine and contemporary color schemes, the remodeling was an opportunity to preserve a bit of the building's history. Capt. J.B. Shane, the building's first owner, operated a photography studio in the building and took many of the existing photographs of Lawrence near the turn of the century.
FOR THE renovation, Allen Terry had the interior plaster stripped down to the rock walls, and H&H Restoration acid stripped several layers of paint off the exterior brick.
Quinton and Gaudreau, who moved here from Wichita, said they chose Lawrence as the site of their restaurant after doing a study of all Big Eight university cities.
"Our marketing research led us here," Quinton said.
Chuck Magerl, proprietor of Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., said he'll have to wait and see how much competition Quinton's offers his own bar and restaurant.
But Magerl said he has been watching the renovation of the building across the street.
"I think it's going to be a nice addition to this end of downtown," he said.
Magerl, whose own business opened in 1989 in the renovated site of the former Greyhound bus station garage, said he was pleased that the renaissance of the 600 block, which once was "the end of the line" in downtown Lawrence, was continuing.
"It's brought people's attention to this end of downtown, which had been a series of, in some cases, run-down buildings and perhaps somewhat odd sorts of service businesses," he said.