Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building Character: Pulsates spirit of adaption and reuse

(First report by Cliff B. Lewis on the Downtown cultural scene)

The 300 block of North Queen Street may well be the cradle of a cultural Renaissance in Downtown Lancaster. And the glowing center of this gestating movement would have to be Building Character.

Tucked away from the west side of Queen, Building Character's exposed brick walls and bare rafters have come to shelter a colorful arrangement of local music, art, clothing, and film. The now city-wide tradition of Music Fridays (on the third week of each month) first pulsed through these very walls to the tune of the Faux Minx, Lancaster's hardest-working jazz-funk quintet. And, from the looks of things, this is only the beginning of Building Character's impact on Lancaster's local culture.

Before April 2007, Building Character was a drab and silent warehouse. Had it not been for the efforts of local preservationists, this 19th century structure, designed by the same architect as Penn Square's Greist building, would have been flattened into a parking lot. Instead, the building served as a small-time storage facility until less than two years ago, when Tony Nies and Marty Hulse conceived the idea for a Downtown-based market for antique architectural salvage material.

Not long after its initial opening, the facility became a fresh venue for emerging Lancaster musicians—apparently a hot commodity at the moment: "The Chameleon," Nies explained, "kind of lost the [status of being] known as the local, raw, underground space for up and coming local artists. Now they're booking David Archuleta." Two years ago, when folk artist and former "Vigilante of Love” Bill Malone visited Lancaster, he performed at the Chameleon. This Saturday, February 28, Malone will perform at Building Character.

Building Character bears a stark and stylish atmosphere, setting a new local standard for the adaptive reuse of historic industrial structures. Indeed, its entire eclectic block is defined by a spirit of adaptation and reuse—from clothing, to windows, to vintage cigarette lighters. As Nies puts it, "Almost everything in the block reuses in some way….That's one of the things that the block stands for."

Building Character is located at 342 North Queen, Warehouse B. Building Character houses a diverse array of cultural events, all of which are listed on their Event Calendar.