Monday, February 14, 2011

Temple of Commerce

Back in 1995, a local photographer named Arvil Daniels enlisted me to help him find space for a studio. He was hoping I could find him something that was a little different than your run of the mill suburban office building. He was also looking for space that could act as an interesting backdrop for some of his portraits. That’s how I came to know Charles Wagandt.

Charles Wagandt runs the Oella Company out of a converted church in Oella, just across the Patapsco from downtown Ellicott City. At one time his great grandfather, William J. Dickey, owned the W.J. Dickey Company Mill which owned most of Oella. After the mill closed in 1972, Charles purchased all the companies land holdings except the actual mill. Those holdings included this church which he converted to office space.

Arvil liked it so much he stayed for sixteen years and now he’s decided to wind down his business and forgo the cost of maintaining a studio. He plans to vacate his church office at the end of this month.

Charles gave me a call the other day and asked if I might help him find another tenant. Last Friday I drove up the hill from Ellicott City to see him.

There have been lots of changes to Oella since I last sat down with him, most notably being the former mill which overlooks the river. It has been converted into 147 luxury apartments .

It’s wired too. Charles told his church building has both Comcast and FIOS. This is quite a change from the mid seventies when residents of Oella were still waiting for public water and sewer.

I don’t think he’ll have a hard time finding a new tenant. The 1,700 square foot space has wood floors, lots of windows and skylights and a enclosed choir loft office overlooking the rest of the building. Around these parts, spaces with this much character and all the modern conveniences are pretty rare.

The last guy stayed sixteen years.
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