Even when the century-old Columbus Pump House was boarded up and sinking into decay, local businessman and developer Tony Moravec saw potential through the brick-arched windows and doorways that overlook the city’s riverfront and downtown.
All that potential and more has been revealed this week in previews of the new Upland Columbus Pump House, which opens to the public today as the newest location for Bloomington-based Upland Brewing Co.
In about a year’s time, Moravec took the building — designed and built in 1901 as the city’s water plant by nationally-recognized architect Harrison Albright — and transformed it into a multi-faceted brewhouse and restaurant.
All the interior brick has been preserved, as has the building’s floor, which was scraped down and polished to the original Pump House flooring of a century ago.
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The structure and its new deck overlook has close-up views of the East Fork White River so near you can hear the water rushing over the dam.
“It’s the only restaurant on the waterfront in Columbus,” Upland employee Michael Freed pointed out while handing out Upland Brewing Co. bumper stickers to preview party guests Tuesday.
Doug Dayhoff, president of Upland, was smiling and shaking hands as guests milled about the restaurant. Visitors marveled at the industrial but modern look and feel of the brewhouse and how spacious and open the new restaurant and bar is.
“This building was just craving some sort of productive use,” Dayhoff said, looking around at what Moravec and Upland had accomplished with the renovation.
“This is an industrial building, and it’s here to work,” Dayhoff said. “If you don’t work these buildings, they disappear.”
Dayhoff said it’s now Upland’s responsibility to provide the quality beer, food and service to match the stunning beauty and polish of the building that Moravec has renovated.
A design in process
Moravec is no novice when it comes to preserving historic buildings in Columbus. He staged a seven-figure, two-year restoration and expansion of the 1900-era Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor at 329 Washington St., which reopened in 2009.But Moravec is the first to admit that he may have taken on more than he realized when he bought the Pump House from the city a year ago for $285,000 with plans to renovate it as a restaurant and bar.
At that time, he planned to spend $2.5 to $3 million on the project but now says the price tag went well above that.
“It was in rough shape,” Moravec said of the building. “We really had no idea how rough of shape it was. It’s $3 million-plus and we’re not done,” he said, referring to ongoing work on banquet rooms and a kitchen in the area below the restaurant, which will be available for wedding receptions, parties and meetings in the future.
Walking into the brewpub now, one of the first things visitors see is artwork of Chaos, the sculpture that was built of scrap metal inside the Pump House in 1973 but then taken apart and later transported to The Commons. The newly installed artwork, by Jill and Debra Sloan, is a reminder of the heritage of the building and a nod to a major Columbus downtown attraction, inviting visitors to spend some time at Upland, but to explore other parts of Columbus as well.
The lighting in the entryway will be familiar to those who remember the huge bulb lights of the city’s senior citizens center, based in the building from 1976 to 2011.
Moravec salvaged the bulbs and grouped them with Upland’s colors in the front window, as well as along one side of the building.
Dayhoff joked the large lighting fixtures had been headed for the scrap bin.
“We were going to throw them into the trash, but he (Moravec) was asking, ‘How can we use these?’ “ Dayhoff said. “It’s a very cool way to repurpose things, and it’s very consistent with our values as a company. We just didn’t see it at the time, but he did.”
Looking upward, Dayhoff credited Moravec with the decision to remove all the false ceilings and reveal the duct work, covered in a new teal shade in the entryway to set off the interior brick and light wood accents.
Moravec jokes he paused at the color at first, but now sees what the designer was recommending.
“It grew on me,” he said.
It was one of thousands of decisions Moravec talked over with hundreds of craftsmen who worked on the building, from those who tuck-pointed and cleaned bricks to the metalworkers who designed the distinctive black-laquered wood-trimmed railings on the stairwell.
“This is a lot of craftsman focusing on the same vision,” Moravec said. “We’re just thrilled — it’s better than I had imagined.”
A new staff for a new building
Upland has brought in general manager Jake Fehrenbach to manage the new brewpub and supervise the business’ 75 new employees.Fehrenbach has worked for Upland on and off since 2007 in a variety of roles, including executive chef. He was in Colorado, contemplating a return to Indiana when he saw photos of the Pump House project and was intrigued.
Growing up in the area, he knew exactly what building it was and why it was important to Columbus. With things changing so fast with today’s technology, it’s good to appreciate the rich history of a community and its buildings, he said.
About half of the employees have been training in the Upland facility in Bloomington, with others learning the ropes in a series of preview parties which preceded today’s grand opening.
Fehrenbach described every corner of the building as a challenge, as workers are learning a new layout, a new kitchen, all the menu items and the Upland company’s expectations for service.
Known nationally for its beer selection, Upland features 14 draught lines and rotates seasonal options, including carryout except for Sunday, which is prohibited by state law.
Upland menus change seasonally and the restaurant chefs cook from scratch using as much locally produced ingredients from local farmers as possible, Dayhoff said. The company has a goal that all proteins, except for some types of fish, are to be locally sourced as well.
There are some Upland staple items that stay on the menu year-round — the Mac ‘n’ Cheese, the Upland tenderloin sandwich and the nachos.
Upland’s Seitan Tenderloin was named best vegetarian sandwich in Indianapolis by Indianapolis Monthly Magazine. Upland notes on its website that Upland refuses to ever cut corners where bacon is concerned on a menu item.
Rave reviews from the previews
As guests arrived through the door Tuesday, they were greeted by Moravec, and many simply stood and gazed around, taking it all in.Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!” before Moravec gave her a mini-tour of the new executive dining and meeting room with a river view tucked in a corner.
Thomas Lutes, an attorney with Lawson, Pushor, Mote and Gamso in Columbus, said he thought the designers had done a good job with the aesthetics and predicted Upland would do well.
Lutes said he knew about Upland Brewing’s beer, but was looking forward to exploring the menu, ordering a grilled sandwich known as Bad Elmer’s Favorite.
Across the way, Cody Harbaugh, museum manager for the Columbus Historical Society, was having dinner with Adam and Katie Rediker.
“This will be a great place to come with friends; the atmosphere is really nice,” Adam Rediker said.
Harbaugh said he was surprised at how large the Pump House actually is and he was impressed with what Moravec had done with the space.
“This is a great way to keep the past alive and mix it with the present and the future,” Harbaugh said.
Columbus native Gov. Mike Pence had his own preview lunch with Moravec at Upland on Monday, learning how the new brewpub came together. He promised Moravec he would return today for the grand opening.
Moravec’s work to restore the Pump House sets Columbus apart, Pence said, and the facility will be another example of how to retain and attract the workforce Columbus needs to grow its economy, the governor said.
“Columbus has always gone the extra mile to create a community that people want to live in,” he said. “This is part of Columbus’ front door,” he said “This is visionary.”
April Williams, Columbus Park Foundation project and resource development director, praised Moravec and Upland for preserving the authenticity of the Pump House building and particularly for providing diners with a spectacular view of the river.
“This is so different for Columbus,” she said. “Except for the parks, for so long we’ve turned our backs on the river,” she said. “This shows what we can do with the riverfront.”
As the grand opening approached, Dayhoff said the Upland staff, the contractors and everyone who worked on the renovation have communed with the century-old building’s “ghosts” about all the changes to the structure and its transformation from a Pump House, to a machine shop, then a senior center and now to a fully renovated brewpub.
“I addressed the staff last week and I told them the Pump House is the nicest brewpub anywhere in the Midwest,” he said. “I think the building is happy with what we’ve done.”
Where: 148 Lindsey St.
What: Upland is a family friendly brewpub with separate over-21 bar area with outdoor deck dining available.
Background: The Upland Columbus Pump House is owner Tony Moravec’s latest undertaking in restoring historic buildings in Columbus. He staged a two-year restoration and expansion of the 1900-era Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor at 329 Washington St. which reopened in 2009. He also owns the Henry Social Club restaurant building at 523 Washington St. and Blairex Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company at 1600 Brian Drive. Moravec and his son, Ryan, also are investors in Bloomington-based Upland Brewing Co.
Project contract manager: George Breeden
Architect: William E. Burd Architect
Capturing history: A booklet describing the history of the building and its evolution was scheduled to be distributed at the grand opening. Debra Slone, David Sechrest and Rhonda Moravec researched the booklet.
- Built in 1901 as a city water plant near downtown Columbus along the East Fork White River.
- Designed by nationally recognized architect Harrison Albright, who also designed the West Baden Springs Hotel, described as the Eighth Wonder of the World. He was paid $250 for his services.
- July 18, 1901: The contract to build the new Pump House was awarded to Dunlap & Co. with a low bid of $12,366 (which would be about $353,300 today). The building was completed at the end of April 1902. During the entire time the Pump House is in operation, only steam-powered equipment is used.
- Oct. 5, 1937: The Pump House has 3,000 consumers and serves 35 miles of water mains throughout Columbus.
- Nov. 14, 1951: Columbus’ new well water system powers up and brings an end to the Pump House as a city utility.
- March 15, 1954: Pump House property is sold to Ray Smock, who co-owned Southern Machine Co., for $10,000. The company occupied the building through 1971.
- March 1973: Jean Tinguely begins building Chaos 1 in the Pump House from scavenged scrap metal at Kroot Corp. The 30-foot-tall, 7-ton sculpture was later taken apart to be transported to The Commons. Look for the tribute to Chaos 1 in the entryway to the new brewpub.
- Oct. 24, 1976: The Pump House becomes home to the city’s new Senior Citizens Center. In 2009, the city began construction on a new senior center, Mill Race Center, which was dedicated on April 17, 2011, leaving the Pump House vacant once again.
- 2015: Local entrepreneur, developer and industrialist Tony Moravec purchases the Pump House for $285,000 and invests more than $3 million to renovate it into a restaurant and brewpub for Bloomington-based Upland Brewing Co.
— Information provided from the Republic archives and a brochure about the history of the Pump House provided by Tony Moravec and his staff and historian David Sechrest.
Address: 148 Lindsey St., Columbus
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday; open until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu: Lunch, dinner and kids menus, with adult dinner entrees from $13.99 to $22.99
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