A few years ago we were asked to make custom kitchen countertops for the apartments in Drayton Tower, on 102 E. Liberty Street. Guided by the stipulation that the countertops should cohere with the mid-century character of the building, we decided to fashion them out of bowling lanes reclaimed from a neglected bowling alley in north Jacksonville. We then cut varying sizes from the full-length (15 foot) lanes to fit appropriately the different spaces in kitchens of different apartment types, then finished each with beeswax and food-safe mineral oil.
Though appropriating bowling lanes for use in the kitchen might seem strange, it coheres quite well with the history of the building itself.
The twelve story tall tower, completed in 1951 and called Drayton Arms, originated as an apartment building proposed to accommodate veterans and lower income tenants. Though its modern design was quite appealing in its time, over the next two decades the building fell into disuse and disrepair as populations migrated into the suburbs. It sat for in this condition for nearly 40 years, until Drayton Arms was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, and shortly afterward was bought and renovations commenced.
The newly christened Drayton Towers opened in 2013 and holds 99 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments within the upper floors of the building. Before the opening, we assisted a variety of demolition and deconstruction work on the building itself, and, to finish the apartments, added these countertops. As the structure itself was built in 1951, we decided to use our bowling lanes—the ‘40s, ‘50s’ and ‘60s are considered the “golden age of bowling,” after which the game fell out of favor. Subsequently bowling alleys across the nation fell into a similar disuse and even closed, leaving the sturdy (imagine a wooden remain uncracked with 16 pound balls flung at it all day) and beautiful lanes exposed to deterioration or tossed into the dumpster.
As our original stipulation required, these reclaimed and repurposed bowling lane countertops reflect the renovated Drayton Tower, both salvaged from probable destruction from a time slowly forgotten, and fashioned into a refined, functional and austere contemporary design.