Charlotte Hubbard is living like it’s the 19th century — but with air-conditioning. The Oxford city councilwoman just moved into a newly refurbished loft apartment above her business, Hubbard’s Off Main restaurant in old downtown Oxford.
“Refurbished” here means “kept it authentic and modernized as little as possible.”
“I always wanted to live in an old house. It’s great if you like old and cracked and things not being square — which I do,” Hubbard said.
The building was built in 1898. The downstairs used to be Robertson’s Cash Store; the upstairs was at some point a doctor’s office. “While cleaning the walls, we found two old glass syringes,” Hubbard said.
She kept the plaster walls as is, including peeling layers of colors. In several places — including one whole wall — the plaster is gone entirely, exposing the narrow wood laths underneath. “I left the lath showing to show how much work went into this place,” Hubbard said.
Most of the wooden floors and doors are original, as are the large transom windows (which had been covered in layers and layers of paint).
Hubbard opted not to install central heat and air, instead installing wall- and ceiling-mounted Mitsubishi Electric cooling units in three of the five rooms. There are also several coal-burning fireplaces that she plans to convert to gas logs.
There are no built-in cabinets, no closets. Instead, Hubbard uses lots of storage pieces and a clothing wardrobe.
She has filled the rooms with a comfortable mix of family heirlooms, antiques and modern reproductions.
“It’s very livable,” she said. “These are all rooms that I use.”
Hubbard and her family used to live in a huge house, but after her husband passed away in 2012, she moved to a different loft apartment in downtown Oxford, before downsizing once again to this new apartment.
“If you have a business, it’s so nice to live upstairs,” Hubbard said. “I am downstairs all the time. I can come up here and take breaks. I don’t have to leave late at night to go home. It’s what shop owners used to do, and I understand why.”
The front room of the apartment opens onto a new balcony overlooking downtown, where a $3 million renovation project is underway to make the area more historically charming with brick sidewalks, old-style street lamps and landscaping.
Within walking distance of Hubbard’s restaurant and apartment lie three churches, the Oxford Performing Arts Center, a coffee shop, an ice cream store, a variety of retail shops and — a crucial element to successful downtown loft living — a grocery store.
Hubbard is far from the only loft owner in downtown. She sold her old apartment to a young family with two children. Other business owners are also considering renovating and moving in above their shops. A law firm has renovated two upstairs apartments in its building as vacation rentals.
“It used to be only older folks down here, but now it’s more young people,” Hubbard said. “Now I may be the oldest.”
Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.