by Michael R. Allen
In 2004, the building at 4301 McRee Avenue (at Tower Grove Avenue) was vacant. The terra cotta wrapped double entrance surround at the corner attract many an eye due to its ornate pediments. The pediments feature a mortar and pestle at center that commemorates the building’s original drug store tenant. Yet the rest of the building was rough, with all second floor windows missing. The Garden District Commission had acquired the building, and its future was unknown.
The unknown future arrived through architects Brent Crittenden and Sara Gibson, who purchased the building in 2006. In 2008, the building was rehabilitated as the home for Crittenden and Gibson’s enterprises, Urban Improvement Construction and the Central Design Office.
Crittenden and Gibson have a vision for a reborn Tower Grove Avenue in McRee Town, and the corner pharmacy is not their only finished project. When neighborhood anchor Tower Grove Hardware closed — and this writer was among those who did mourn the passing — the duo purchased the two-story store building at 1624 Tower Grove Avenue across the street from their offices. Rehabilitation was complete by the end of summer 2009. The large storefront openings now are inviting with large windows, after having been covered in boards for decades. Both this building and the corner building at 4301 McRee Avenue are now contributing resources to the Liggett and Myers Historic District.