Walking into the building at the intersection of Oakwood Avenue and North Memorial Parkway is like stepping into many facets of history.
The newly remodeled property is now home to H.C. Blake Co., Kim’s Diner and Betty Mae’s Restaurant, both which will be opening soon.
Jim Batson, owner of H.C. Blake bought the property and with his sister, local artist Sara Beth Fair transformed the building, using repurposed materials and furnishings from businesses that had shuttered their doors.
“We’re so excited about our new building,” said Fair. “Jim and I designed most of the building. Everything is repurposed. When businesses were closing, we went and got the furniture and fixtures. Every bit of wood in the training room is repurposed from Playmor bowling alley. There’s even a disco ball.”
Plenty of attention has been paid to the outside area, as well. The exterior is bright, clean and inviting, with greenery housed in repurposed metal ceiling tile planters. It’s a far cry from what it had been for many years: a tired, run-down shopping plaza that had seen much better days.
H.C. Blake was founded in 1884 and has been a family owned and operated business for five generations. In fact, Fair and Batson’s sons both work for the company.
A plumbing business that started out started with “just two guys and a wagon” has grown to 150 employees and a fleet of trucks. Throughout its 136-year history the company stayed in business, weathering two world wars and the Great Depression.
The biggest gem of the H.C. Blake property sits at the northeast corner of the shopping plaza. The Blake Center for Arts & History, which includes the Sara Beth Fair Fine Art Gallery and Studio, the Carole Forêt Fine Art Gallery and Studio and Huntsville Revisited.
After 30 years in Gulf Breeze, Fla., Carole Forêt started two galleries in Athens. After moving to Huntsville in 2013, Forêt’ later became a part of Clinton Row in 2018.
“I’m part of a fifth gallery now,” said Forêt. “I’m thrilled to be in Huntsville.”
“Huntsville Revisited focuses on capturing and collecting pictures of people, places and other things related to Huntsville,” said Artist in Residence William Hampton. “Everyday citizens, the things that make this city unique; celebrating the contributions of every man and woman.”
For more info: https://www.blakecenter.com/