As Dean Coughtry walked through the cluttered and dust-covered rooms of the Parrott House in Schoharie Thursday morning, he poked at crumbling plaster and brushed chips of paint off the walls.
“It’s filthy everywhere, just a mess,” he said. “We’re going to rip everything out and clean it up, and do the work that needs to be done.”
At the former entrance to the restaurant, he paused to admire the sunlight streaming through mirrored glass etched with two parrots.
“That’s one thing we are going to save,” he said.
Coughtry and his wife, Ruth, bought the Schoharie landmark a few weeks ago with plans to renovate it and house a restaurant, apartments and retail space, all focused on Schoharie Valley goods and produce.
The three-story 1870s Parrott House, a striking white building trimmed in black in the center of Schoharie’s Main Street, used to be a hub of social and economic activity. It was purchased and renovated in 2011 by former owner David McSweeney, just before being flooded by Tropical Storm Irene.
McSweeney attempted to keep the restaurant and bar open after the flood, but was shut down twice for health code violations, the second and last time in March 2013.
“It’s always been at the heart of the village, in terms of economy and community character and the culture,” said Nan Stolzenburg, consulting planner for the village of Schoharie and a board member at Schoharie Community Development Corp., which has partnered with the village in pursuing grants for the project. “It was always a place for parties and receptions and dinners and things like that. So it’s always held a really important role in the community and the village really sees it as an anchor project.”
Coughtry, who has lived in the village since 1990 and had relatives in the area “forever,” said he and Ruth plan to entirely gut the building and prepare it for rental to those who may want to start a restaurant or retail business. They’re doing away with the bar, he said, as well as some hasty additions tacked on to the building in recent years.
First, the whole thing has to be inspected for lead paint, which he suspects there’s plenty of, and asbestos, both of which have to be professionally removed.
“It’s an iconic building in the village and it’s a shame not to make use of it,” he said. “It’s a building that needs to be brought back. And even if there are not grants, we intend to at least get it gutted, raise the floors, just get it into a condition where someone might like to take it over or just continue with that work.”
The village and SCDC are currently applying for grants through the New York State Main Street Program and other sources like the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which could go toward renovation of the Parrott House, according to Stolzenburg.
Coughtry said although they’re booting the bar, they hope to attract a retail business that carries products from the newly launched Schoharie County Beverage Trail, which includes two distilleries, a meadery and a winery. The retail space in the basement, he said, could take the form of a consignment shop with various goods from local producers, from wool and jewelry to quilts and honey.
“We’d like to make this building about Schoharie,” he said. “We have all kinds of talented people making things here.”
While the Coughtrys work to get the space renovated, he said they’re not interested in running the businesses themselves. They’re currently looking for interested entrepreneurs to take advantage of the location, and he welcomes emails to [email protected]
While the village and SCDC chase funding for the Parrott House, they’re also thinking about the Taylor Block building, another historic brick structure sitting unused and in need of renovation across the street. Stolzenburg said both buildings “could be the pull for a lot of people to come in and use Main Street from within the village and outside, that would spur other kinds of businesses.”
Walking down the original staircase of the Parrott House Thursday — much of the interior was renovated in the 1970s and lacks the exterior’s historical charm — Coughtry seemed impressed by the amount of work that needed to be done, but never overwhelmed.
“Now’s the time,” he said. “The grant money is available. Now is the time to do it. Otherwise, this place is just going to continue to sink. The floors will continue to sink. It’ll just deteriorate — kiss it goodbye.”