Auburn City Steakhouse: Repurposing History to Engage Community
Downtown Auburn, Indiana is a special place. Its walkable urban streets and low-rise commercial storefronts surround the brilliant green lawn of the historic Nemaha County Courthouse, while Civil War Era buildings are scattered across the city. One such building, at the corner of 8th and Main, is a place previously known as The Hardware Store.
For 155 years, The Hardware Store has been a space for community engagement; otherwise known as a “third place.” It was the stop in-between home and work, where community members could pick up local goods, see familiar faces, meet new friends, and always feel welcome. So, when MKM was tasked with its renovation and reuse, our goal was to enhance the store’s existing character and social magic, while transforming the function of the space from hardware store to restaurant.
As you walk into the new Auburn City Steakhouse, the space previously containing hardware supplies has been renovated into a deli and waiting area for the restaurant. The entrance flows seamlessly into the main dining room, which continues on to private dining towards the rear of the first floor. The second floor includes a contemporary lounge space, banquet dining room, and the ‘Davis and James Lounge’ bar. The basement, which was previously oil and dynamite storage, features private wine lockers surrounded by exposed concrete and stone walls. The building’s industrial-aged freight elevator, oak stairs, brick walls, tin ceilings, and wooden floors have all been restored to their original beauty. Small wooden drawers, meant for holding knick-knacks, have been repurposed to adorn social spaces. Antique cash registers, a weigh scale, and the well-known ‘Auburn City Hardware’ sign were strategically relocated as points of interest throughout the restaurant. All of these treasures are illuminated by the natural daylight of the large, original windows in the North-facing 8th Street façade.
By repurposing and restoring select significant features from the original building, The Hardware Store’s history can continue by way of a purpose. This historic restoration helps reestablish the Auburn City Steakhouse as a catalyst for community engagement in Auburn and Northeast Indiana.