History uncovered during renovations for the new Urth Caffé in Old Towne Orange is being used as inspiration for a café that will surround diners in authentic city history.
Urth Caffé is set into open in the fall in the one-time home of Hemphill & Morse Real Estate, Loans and Investments. The building was constructed in 1888, the same year Orange was incorporated.
Workers with Spectra Company, a historical restoration and preservation contractor, were working on what will be the café’s main dining area when they made a big discovery. Chipping away a half-inch of plaster revealed the painted sign of the original real estate office, covered for more than a century when the building was expanded in 1907.
Mark Green, senior superintendent with Spectra, has worked on historic properties for decades, and said discovering chunks of history adds a dose of excitement to the job.
“We really like to find stuff like this,” Green said. “It’s really gratifying, especially at my age. I don’t think I could go back to new construction.”
Over his years on the job, Green has dug up all manner of historic remnants, including a bag of jewelry, a cowboy’s wallet with a 1908 driver’s license, and even an 8,000-year-old corpse.
“Finding this stuff out, being able to work with architects and engineers who care about it – it makes it a pleasure to go to work,” Green said.
The café’s newfound sign had been eroded by time, so the team brought in an artist to complete it based on historic photographs. Now, the fully restored sign decorates the dining area, adding a serving of Orange history for future customers to enjoy.