Fritz sets sights on rebuilding a beacon

Photos by Cheyenne Boone/The Herald
Allen Voges of Bretzville cuts a piece of board to fix a wall at 1245 Main St. in Ferdinand on Tuesday.


FERDINAND — Keith Fritz could see it before anyone else.

Back when it was just an old building with a leaky roof and boarded-up windows, the world-renowned fine furniture crafter already had a vision for the three-story structure at 1245 Main St. in Ferdinand. Not only did he want to bring it back to life, he wanted to turn it into an arts hub and a beacon in the community.

With the help of teams of student and professional workers, Fritz is now a year into detailed restoration work at the site. He’s currently looking for partners to help him fund the remainder of the project and claim spaces inside the 13,000-square-foot structure.

“Last year, I spent a lot of my money on the building,” Fritz explained. “I’m kind of at the point where I either need to stop work on it, or I need to find a partner with the building. So, if there’s somebody locally who has a business who wants to use the building, or a financial backer that wanted to back the project.”

Fritz likes to construct new items with old materials. At 1245 Main St., salvaged materials from doors to pieces of wood flooring have filled the inside of the space, as Fritz and his teams work to design, paint and piece everything together.

The doorknob of a door restored by Keith Fritz of Ferdinand at 1245 Main St. in Ferdinand on Tuesday. "The doors are like the souls of a place," Fritz said. Many of the doors, windows, and furniture in the building have been restored.

Windows have been installed, drywall has gone up and a portion of the upstairs of the building has been converted into an apartment living space. Fritz has also fixed a degraded brick structural support column in the basement, tapped KMH Construction to re-tuck-point the exposed foundation, and installed new HVAC systems as well as new plumbing, including three full bathrooms and two kitchens.

Ultimately, he aims to rebuild the structure’s original facade and redevelop the interior to include guest suites and spaces for businesses and Traditional Arts Today, a local arts nonprofit.

“We want to create a connection between my clients — most of my business is Boston, San Francisco, Miami [and] New York, the big coasts — we want to connect our clients with local artists and local craftspeople,” Fritz said. “And kind of have a craft tourism.”

A lot of the building’s future depends on what businesses who agree to move into it would need, or what a backer would want to do, Fritz said. While nothing has been officially decided and the options are open, some ideas he has include converting parts of the building into a coffee shop or bakery or Airbnb suites.

“Any time you do work on a building, you want the widest variety of uses to see value in your improvement,” Fritz said of the ongoing rehabilitation, later adding that he is “open to what the community needs.”

The exterior of the building is being restored at 1245 Main St. in Ferdinand on Tuesday. The structure was built in 1886, and purchased by Keith Fritz in 2019. Fritz hopes to restore the building to replicate it's original design from the 1800s. In the future, he hopes to rent the space to local companies and artists.

The space originally housed a general store called the New Farmers’ Store. It was built in 1886 on land owned by Father Joseph Kundek, who, among other notable accomplishments, founded the Town of Ferdinand in 1840. Over the years, the building has also been home to a general merchandise store, department store, grocery store, a fertilizer and lawnmower business, and an oil change service. The structure has sat empty on the corner of 13th and Main streets for a decade.

Why did Fritz decide to buy the building and fix it up?

“Because our ancestors cut those blocks out of the local sandstone and moved them here with mules,” he said while standing in the basement. “And our ancestors dug the clay up out of the ground and cut down the trees to burn the wood to cook those bricks.”

With the proper funding, he said the restoration work could be completed in a year.

“This is our heritage,” Fritz added. “And this building has been an eyesore for the past 10 years, and nobody was doing anything with this. And some people had talked about tearing this down, and it’s like, how can you destroy our heritage? This is an amazing building.”

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