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Style Magazine

Old and Green

Sep 22, 2009 11:59AM ● By Wendy Sipple

Photo courtesy of ANOVA Architects

Bringing new life to the 150-year-old Giebenhain-Fausel House in Placerville presented a challenge for its current owners, the Fausel Professional Center, LLC.

But when ANOVA Architects designed their new office building now located on the site of the old brick edifice, they solved the problem by successfully blending the old with the “green.” Long a centerpiece of the old mining town, the former brewery and residence today represents an innovative architectural trend known as “adaptive reuse.” Recognized both locally and professionally for preserving the old, while creating environmentally superior and sustainable structures, ANOVA Architects has maintained the historical integrity of the site and made the familiar landmark a focal point of its Placerville office.

German emigrant and brew master Frederick Giebenhain purchased the property in 1857 and established one of the first breweries in El Dorado County and one of the first in the state. From then until Prohibition, the brick furnaces of his Mountain Brewery produced quality steam beer popular throughout the Tahoe Basin and the Comstock Lode.

In the June 4, 1902 issue of the United States Health Bulletin, Dr. Amos Gray, after conducting an “unbiased” laboratory study of several other brands of beer, praised Giebenhain’s Mountain Steam as “The Healthiest and Best Beer.” The Bulletin gave the brew its “full editorial and official endorsement,” claiming it as a preventer of disease and as a tonic giving “new strength and hope” to the convalescent.

Giebenhain built the home now known as the Fausel House in 1861, and later sold it to Mary Giebenhain and her husband, Emil Fausel. Until the current owners purchased the building in 2005, the Fausel House, though unoccupied at the time, was the oldest residential building in Placerville.

Since then, ANOVA Architects have worked closely with the City of Placerville, historic preservation groups, contractors and manufacturers “to embrace the time-honored traditions and styles which have made Placerville such a unique place. In November 2006, the firm received the prestigious Citation Award from the American Institute of Architects for preserving the historical integrity of the Fausel House and brewery site as the focal point of the Fausel Professional Building Complex.

To make room for the new 19,000-square-foot complex, crews first shored up the walls of the three-story Fausel House with an internal skeleton of cables and crowned it with a structural roof. In 2007, workers moved the building roughly 40 feet from its original location, rotated it to face Highway 49, and placed it on a new foundation. The home’s new lift also required the replacement of old limestone and the meticulous rebuilding of the porch and other woodwork. The renovated 1,600-square-foot gem now stands ready for office, retail and commercial tenants.

In a written proclamation issued on March 26, 2009, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors formally congratulated the firm: “The Fausel Professional Building complex through ANOVA Architects’ innovative design and preservation is honoring the historic elements of the site while blending the old and the new for a distinctive downtown presence.”