In 2016 Milford residents Dan and Rhonda Bond, the owners of The Towers Bed & Breakfast and several other historic buildings in the North Milford Historic District, purchased the building that housed Lou’s Bootery since 1947. Since, the Bonds have made it their mission to restore the building through historic preservation efforts. After a very visual east facade removal in 2017, the rehabilitation crew of BRS Consultants has recently begun work on the building, which will have when completed a first-floor level for commercial use and two upper floors for residential use. Expected to be finished by the fourth quarter of 2018, the construction team has uncovered many historic findings including elaborated painted walls and ceiling from the Masonic Lodge that originally occupied the third floor and three fluted cast iron columns at the main entrance.
“Everybody knew Skip and Lou’s Bootery and so many people have stopped to talk to me about their good memories of getting their kids’ first shoes there,” said Bond. “I have worked with Milford’s downtown restoration efforts since I moved here in 1991 and I figure this is one of the absolutely key buildings that we need to maintain. Mainstream historic preservation is a huge part of revitalizing downtowns and we definitely did not want to lose this building.”
Bond is using a combination of a Downtown Development District grant from the State of Delaware and State and Federal Historic Tax Credits to reduce the risk of the project while allowing him to create a site that could be restored to its historic form. “The first challenge I had was making sure I could do this without losing my shirt,” joked Bond. “If it was not for the Downtown Development District opportunity I probably would not be taking this project on.”
He hopes to find a commercial tenant for the 1,200 square foot space on the first floor and is seeking a retail or food use over an office building. The second and third floors will be rehabilitated to offer one upscale apartment for each floor. “I think there is a market here for upscale apartments, we have a lot of young people that want to live downtown,” said Bond. “It is the major intersection of downtown and as more restaurants and retail expand in downtown, this location will be critical.”
When finished, the store front will be adorned with the twentieth century cast-iron columns, the original windows will be restored, and the outside will be resurfaced with new stucco to match the early storefront appearance. A photo taken in the 1920s is being used to guide the restoration work.
The former Lou’s Bootery is the oldest commercial building on Walnut Street still standing today. In many historic documents, the building is known as the Cooper Building. Mr. Pikus’ father, Lou Pikus, leased the building from Winfield Wright, who operated a clothing store there. However, the history of the building goes back much further than Wright’s Department Store.
The corner lot was purchased by Cornelius Cane from Joseph Oliver, the original owner and developer of the property along NW Front Street where the town of Milford first began. In 1843 Daniel Godwin a merchant, razed the early structure and built what we see today. It was sold in 1865 to Andrew Cooper after the Civil War. Cooper kept the shop till his death in 1875. The building was purchased as a Dry Goods store in 1896 by Winfield Wright from Maryland. During these years the first floor was used to sell general merchandise. For a few years the Peninsula News & Advertiser was published on the second floor. The third floor was used by Milford’s Masonic Lodge, as their membership had outgrown the meeting room they had in the Milford Academy (on the northwest corner of North and Second Streets). The Masons used this space until 1908 when they moved their lodge to the top floor of the Carlisle Building (112 NW Front Street) in 1908.
Winfield Wright operated a dry goods store in the building from 1890 until 1947 when he leased the building to Mr. Pikus. Terry and Skip Pikus, the sons of Lou Pikus, operated the store after their father’s death. Skip continued the practice of selling custom-fitted and specialty shoes after his brother Terry’s death, until his own death in 2015. The Pikus family made the difficult decision to close the store and sell the building in late 2015. In honor of the Pikus family the Bonds have decided to rename the building the Pikus Building.
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