News

1926 Automotive Building Readapted for Engineering Office

June 17, 2018

The Kittrell-Milling Motor Company building that is part of Mobile’s Automobile Alley Historic District has been readapted as the new home of Precision Engineering Company. The 1926 building was transformed by architect Henry Norris of Henry Norris & Associates, Inc. in Pensacola, who calls it “a perfect candidate for adaptive reuse.”

Norris says his objective was to preserve the original integrity of the design, emphasizing the structural design elements within the interior of the building, which lent itself for new use. The main structure and exterior façade were intact and in relatively good condition.

Among the building’s most notable characteristics, he says, are the large “picture” windows facing St. Louis Street, the glazed tile inset designs on the exterior brick façade, along with the existing wood columns supporting the massive steel beams and roof system.

The Kittrell-Milling Motor Company Building was designed by Mobile architect C. L. Hutchisson, Sr. and constructed as the dealership for Dodge Brothers Automobiles and Graham Brothers Trucks in 1926. The building served as the Dodge dealership until 1951.

It stands as an exemplary example of a commercial building specifically designed with the automotive industry in mind. The design is a significant local example of a prevailing architectural style that reflects commerce of the period and contributes to the greater history and significance of Mobile’s “Automobile Alley,” notes Stephen McNair of McNair Historic Preservation in Mobile.

The building was eligible for federal and state historic tax credits because it was listed as a “contributing” building as part of the Automobile Alley National Register Historic District. It was also eligible because McNair was able to work with the architect and contractor to create a design that met the Department of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

The Automobile Alley Historic District consists of 11 city blocks in downtown Mobile. The 37 built resources located in the Automobile Alley Historic District were constructed from the 1860s to the present. The district consists mostly of one to two story commercial buildings, sometimes executed in classical but most often in modernistic styles.

Using the services of McNair Historic Preservation, the developer was able to secure both Alabama and federal historic tax credits for the project. The federal incentive provides a 20 percent return on rehabilitation expenditures for a federal income tax credit and the Alabama program provides a 25 percent return on rehabilitation expenditures for a state income tax credit, McNair explains.

Historic tax credits allowed the developer to carefully restore the building while also maintaining a reasonable budget. McNair says historic tax credit incentives often make the difference in a large rehabilitation project and lead to the rehabilitation of blighted buildings while also creating jobs and economic growth.

“We worked in conjunction with the architect and contractor to ensure the proposed design, alterations, upgrades, and modifications to the historic structure were compliant with the Department of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation,” he explains.

“Careful attention was paid to preserving and incorporating existing historic fabric into the design while also meeting a variety of code compliance issues. The adaptive reuse process when using historic tax credits is complicated and time consuming, but we were able to work with the team and secure every available historic incentive while transforming a 1926 automobile dealership into modern offices for an engineering firm.”

Image 1: The Kittrell-Milling Motor Company building has been readapted as the new home of Precision Engineering Company. The 1926 building was transformed by architect Henry Norris of Henry Norris & Associates, Inc. in Pensacola.

Image 2: The building was eligible for federal and state historic tax credits because it was listed as a contributing building as part of the Automobile Alley National Register Historic District. It was also eligible because its design met the Department of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Image 3: The original construction of the building as it looked when photographed in the 1920s. Note the old style auto to the right of the building.

Image 4: Among the building’s most notable characteristics are the large picture windows facing St. Louis Street, its glazed tile inset designs on the exterior brick façade, as well as the existing wood columns supporting the massive steel beams and roof system.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of McNair Historic Preservation and Precision Engineering Company