Greensboro’s old Cascade Saloon.
The downtown building stands beside the railroad tracks and has an odd shape, not exactly rectangular and yet not triangular. It was built in 1895, held a variety of businesses and, in 1907, was a café owned by Wiley and Ida Weaver, an African American couple, which was highly unusual for a white business district in the South. In the next decade, it became the Cascade Billiard Parlor, one of five pool halls in the city.
The Cascade Saloon in Downtown Greensboro (1904-1905).
“It’s a keystone building for downtown Greensboro, and it really connects the south side of Elm Street to the north side,” says Michael Frierson, professor in UNC Greensboro’s Department of Media Studies.
Next Thursday, Nov. 15, Frierson will screen his new documentary, “Cascade: Caring for a Place,” an 18-minute film about the preservation of the Cascade Saloon, one of the oldest remaining historical buildings in the city.
The building had been empty for decades, and the film shows its slow transformation from a decaying, abandoned shell to a vibrant workplace.
The Cascade Saloon building, mid-renovation
The screening will take place inside the building that was the Cascade Saloon, which is now an office of The Christman Company, renowned preservationists who carried out the renovation. It is the first historic adaptive re-use project they have completed in Greensboro, through a unique partnership with the City of Greensboro and Preservation Greensboro.
“It’s really amazing that these partners were able to save it. A lot of people said it couldn’t be saved, but they did it and stuck with it,” says Frierson.
Rigoberto Mendez, a carpenter from The Christman Company
The filmmaker was assisted by his colleague Kevin Wells, and two of his UNCG students. With Frierson, senior media studies and business marketing major Eric Dobbins filmed interviews with people who worked on the building as well as with people who had lived in the area for decades.
“Any chance to bring a new story to life is fun,” says Dobbins. “Each film has a unique story, and the goal is to find that story. That’s the biggest learning experience for me when it comes to creating a film.”
Dobbins also learned more than he bargained for about historical restoration and notes the detail that the lead designers worked with in matching new bricks to bricks from when the building was first built.
“They could even tell if the original mason was right or left-handed purely by looking at how the brink was laid,” says Dobbins.
Reynolds Scholar and Lloyd International Honors College student Sarah Seyler also helped in filming interviews and served as the main editor for a historical sequence in the film. In building a view of what Greensboro looked like in the early and mid-20th century, Seyler says she gained a lot of knowledge about the city’s history.
“To me, the Cascade Saloon is one of the most important buildings that we can keep in Greensboro,” she says. “Particularly when looking at the history it holds, a history of unity.”
“It’s a really positive story for Greensboro,” adds Frierson. “I really got to love the building.”
There will be two screenings of “Cascade: Caring for a Place” on November 15, at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., in the former Cascade Saloon, located at 408 S. Elm St. Reservations will be open to the general public on and after Thursday Nov. 8. Contact Preservation Greensboro by email ([email protected]) or phone 336-272-5003 to reserve a seat.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane and courtesy of Michael Frierson and the Greensboro History Museum