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Building within a building designed for Friedman-Mincer project's authenticity

Building within a building designed for Friedman-Mincer project's authenticity

April 2016

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The main stairwell (photos in slideshow) leading from the Rogers Avenue door of the Friedman-Mincer building presented the architect Tim Maddox of deMX Architecture of Fayetteville with a design challenge. The building’s main, Texas Corner door owns all the “wow” factor. Its Rogers Avenue entrance was dark and a bit claustrophobia-inducing. Now, it is a spectacular space.

“You enter through the narrow hallway then it opens up into the three-story, 67-feet-tall main stairwell,” Maddox said. Sunlight from a third-story window illuminates the stairwell all day.

Throughout, the reclaimed wood was treated to appear darker and the new, maple wood details are lighter, Maddox said. “You can get up close to that wood and see the old nail holes, the texture of it. That was intentional to help tell the story of the building. We’re using the old wood and we’re not trying to combine the old and new to make it ambiguous about what was what.”

In total, some 8,500 linear feet of 100-year-old boards, in dimensions of 2x8, 2x10 and even 2x14, were saved from the partially gutted interior of the Friedman-Mincer building. Those planks of full-dimension lumber were split in half to create 1-by boards. “We netted 16,000 linear feet of boards,” Maddox said. “That’s 16,000 feet of wood that we recycled.”

The architects had to source a sawmill to split the boards, which turned out to be M&M Lumberyard & Sawmill of Van Buren, Ark., and locate a vintage planer capable of smoothing the wood. 

The structural steel beams now bearing the full load of the building are revealed in the stairwell. An elevator is located to the right of the lower interior door in this photo.

“We generally try not to do anything that’s false,” Maddox said of his firm’s design ethos. “We try to be honest in the use of all materials.”

The artful interplay of old and new carries through the design of the 1912 building, which is now good to stand another century.


The contrast of exterior and interior was fully intended by Propak, the client, and deMx Architecture. Clark said he chose the Fayetteville firm and its principal architect, Tim Maddox, to help create attention for the downtown Fort Smith landmark.

“I wanted northwest Arkansas talking about this project,” Clark said. Maddox, who was delighted to oblige, said Clark reacted well to deMx work such as Vetro 1925 Ristorante in Fayetteville, a preservation/new design for a older building near the square.

Gathering area: In the center of the third floor a sitting area repeats the structure-within-structure idea and makes dramatic use of the massive lumber reclaimed from the building. Surrounding the area are offices with glass walls and exterior views to Garrison and Towson avenues – and miles beyond. Overhead on this floor, wooden glue-laminate beams and a maple ceiling surface contrast new and old.

Exterior photo: Friedman-Mincer viewed straight at its distinctive corner site. It is the only such building downtown. This crossroads was historically called Texas Corner, as the north-south route – now U.S. 71/Towson Avenue – led to Fort Towson, Okla., and on to Texas. Historic plaques nearby show the building in 1958 and the area after an 1898 cyclone devastated older buildings at Texas Corner.

Ground floor photo: A see-through jewel box of space visible from all directions, the building’s ground floor (bottom right) awaits a perfect tenant, Clark said, or may possibly be needed for Propak expansion. 

Related article: An interview with Steve Clark

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

Photos by John Cross © Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online