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Miller Brothers Building

The Miller Brothers Building on Fort Wayne Avenue in Richmond (across from Little Sheba's) is being renovated. The windows have been re-exposed in preparation for the opening of a new furniture business by Roger Richert.

Photo: Miller Brothers Building, Richmond, Indiana

Photo taken June 7, 2005

Railroad Depot District or "Hoosier Bowery"

Saving history
After being abandoned, the Miller Brothers Hardware building will be used once again.

Author: Mary Sell; Staff Writer

Copyright (c) Palladium-Item.
All rights reserved.

Page: 8B
January 30, 2005

Walking though the empty Miller Brothers Hardware Co. building in Richmond feels a bit like a history lesson. A very cool history lesson.

The Depot district building's three floors once housed one of the largest wholesale hardware firms in the country. The 95,000-square-foot building occupies most of the block between North Eighth and Seventh streets on Fort Wayne Avenue. The original portion was constructed in 1890, with expansions in 1900 and 1913.

While Miller Brothers has been gone more than 30 years, the building's punched tin ceilings in the office area are still there. So are the "Miller Brothers" signs painted on the interior walls.

Some windows have been knocked out and covered up, but the multi-colored stained glass on the second and third floor remains.

The building, most recently used as storage, is a little musty and dusty. The cavernous rooms that once held the Miller Brothers' operations are now empty.

But not for long.

Roger Richert, owner of the Richmond Furniture Outlet, bought the building in December for about $200,000. By the fall, he hopes to sell furniture in it.

Richert, a self-proclaimed history nut, wants to change as little as possible about the building and make it a downtown attraction.

"What we're hoping for is not just to sell furniture but to make it a destination people want to see," he said.

The building belonged to Miller Brothers Hardware for about 80 years. In 1971, it was sold to Franklin Industries of New York City. Miller Bros. closed in July 1973. The building was purchased that month by Charles Mosey of Mosey Manufacturing. It was used for storage until about a year ago. Since then, it has been empty.

It has Charles Mosey's face, painted on a mural in 1999, on the east side of the building. The mural will stay, as will painted "Miller Bros. Hardware" advertisements on the interior of the building that mark where inside walls were once outer walls as the building expanded.

Richert is talking to a few artists about creating more murals depicting historic Richmond in the building.

Richert said he only will paint interior portions of the building that were previously painted. The hardwood floors will be refinished and restored.

"We're trying to have a nostalgic look of Old Richmond," Richert said.

Richert's current Richmond location on Sim Hodgin Parkway is about 10,000 square feet. Richert owns six furniture stores in east-central Indiana.

Richert said he will operate out of both Richmond locations indefinitely. Richmond Furniture, started by his parents, has been at its current location for 40 years.

But this new location, with seemingly endless floor space, will let Richert do something he doesn't have space to do in his crowded Sim Hodgin spot: Display and accessorize his furniture. He's already thinking about where he wants to put furniture in the large rooms of the building - leathers on the second floor, retro on the third.

"This is as big as all our stores combined," said Richmond store manager Dewey Thompson.

The Miller Hardware building is one of several renovation projects in the area and Richert, who grew up on North 16th Street, said he's happy to be back in his old stomping grounds.

Wayne Goodman, director of the Eastern Region for Historic Landmarks Foundation in Cambridge City, said it's great to see another historic building in the Deport district get a new use.

"I think that the redevelopment that is taking place in that area is fantastic," Goodman said, citing the business and restaurants that helped redevelop Fort Wayne Avenue and North E Street.

He said development around the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot increases the need for renovations to that building, which he said is the centerpiece of the district.

"I think that the renovation that Roger is going to be completing on the Miller Brothers Buildings is another sign that we need to save the Depot," Goodman said.

Renee Oldham, director of the Richmond Urban Enterprise Association, said her group still is looking at grant options and several development possibilities for the Depot.

She said she's excited to see an existing local business expand into the enterprise zone. The enterprise zone covers much of Richmond downtown and historic areas and offers a variety of tax incentives to companies that locate there.

Oldham said the businesses in the Fort Wayne Avenue corridor are complementary of each other and the Richmond Furniture Outlet will be a great addition.

"I just think it will be another huge anchor for that corridor," Oldham said.

Reach reporter Mary Sell at (765) 973-4476 or mgsell@pal-item.com.


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Did You Know?

John Finley, Richmond, Indiana mayor from 1852 until his death in 1866, wrote the poem "The Hoosier's Nest", which is often cited as the first written reference to the word "Hoosier".