In early October 2014 the water damage resulting from a broken waterline valve in the apartment above the restaurant was so extensive it required the owners to take extra precautions in the restoration efforts because of its historic value to the city of Salem and such items as an ornate tin ceiling and brick walls on its interior. The silver lining to the restoration work was that the owners, Jessica Ritter and Cecilia Ritter James, could use the opportunity to make some improvements, including the addition of a few more booths and updating the bar and restroom.
With new black booths, a wall of new red banquette seating, a geometrically patterned floor and sleek new bar with Zinc countertops and pendant lighting, the restaurant is now open with a fresh look and charm of the past. The ornate tin ceiling at the Wild Pear restaurant in downtown Salem is original to the 134-year-old building. Individual panels and tiles form a pattern of elegant circles, arcing diamonds and fleurs-de-lis details that become more pronounced when the space is missing its customers and furnishings. The original tin ceiling tiles luckily remained undamaged once the initial moisture levels were decreased.
Originally, a senior project manager with Rich Duncan Construction, which handled the renovations, estimated that the restaurant would reopen in late December or early January. But in late November, it became apparent there were architectural-design challenges created by the need to bring the 134-year-old building up to city code that would delay the project further. After a unanimous approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission, a second exit was allowed to be cut in the side of the building, resulting in an occupant change, and the swing of the front door was also changed. Most importantly, these adjustments will allow the restaurant to operate at full capacity.
The city, the historic preservation office and the contractor all worked very hard with our design team to make this project a success on all levels. It needed to be feasible to the client, meet current code regulations, stay within budget, and all comply with the historic guidelines.