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History of The Merk

Nominated to the Longview Historic Registry, 1990

 

The Columbia River Mercantile Building, referred to as the MERK, was the first commercial structure to be built in downtown Longview. Completed in 1923, the building served as the "company store" and headquarters for the Long-Bell Lumber Company, builder of the planned city and world's largest lumber mill.

The MERK building remained the property of the Long-Bell Lumber Company until 1950 when it sold to Allied Stores (the Bon Marche).  In 1951, a major renovation was completed in an effort to "modernize" the building as a department store. A number of historic features were destroyed during modernization periods that followed.

In August of 1987, the new Three Rivers Mall opened just across the Cowlitz River in Kelso.  Three anchor stores relocated to the mall, leaving a significant void in Longview's downtown economy and a 33% retail vacancy rate.  The City of Longview retained a professional consulting team to develop a plan for the best use of several vacated Longview buildings, with emphasis placed upon the Bon Marche buidling. The City and consulting team made arrangements with the building owner to accept a reduced purchase price for the vacated building.  A marketing package was prepared and a number of public incentives were made available by the City of Longview to encourage development.  Then in October, 1987, a bid from Columbia River Mercantile, Inc. (John S. & Mary Chilson) was accepted for the building's purchase and restoration.

This five year restoration project in the heart of Longview's historic commercial district has served as a catalyst for a number of neighboring projects.  As a result, the historic district has survived the "shopping mall transition" and continues to serve as a center of commerce for downtown Longview, just as R. A. Long (Longview's founder) envisioned in 1923.

Take a stroll through time while viewing our photographs throughout the Merk. The history of this beautiful, iconic building is extraordinary. 

1923 Merk Construction Costs

 
Excavation $    8,605.99
Concrete     33,231.26
Floor Fill & Finish       1,743.47
Brick Work & Terra Cotta Setting     15,061.82
Terra Cotta       6,385.00
Rough Carpenter Work     28,170.59
Finish       4,303.30
Mill Work       6,762.96
Finish Hardware       2,322.84
Iron Work     11,403.64
Elevators       3,050.00
Fire Doors          550.00
Steel Sash & Shutters          951.00
Plumbing & Heating     11,126.05
Vault Doors          979.79
Electric Work       5,618.79
Sprinklers     10,588.75
Painting       2,297.08
Roofing & Sheet Metal       5,311.01
Plastering     10,798.45
Glass & Glazing       7,802.68
Tile Work       5,500.00
General Conditions       5,003.67
Extra Work, Misc.       2,249.15
Compensation       7,392.94
   
Total Costs $197,210.23
 
Quoted from Long-Bell Lumber Company Ledgers as "Final Distribution of Construction Costs for the Store & Office Building (The Merk)", dated October 15, 1923.
 

Restoration Development Costs

Property Acquisition (Land & Building) $   234,000.00
   
Improvments  
Exterior Restoration        97,927.28
Interior Restoration      298,998.12
Electrical      202,019.67
Plumbing         93,512.44
HVAC      161,401.13
Sprinkler System Modification        29,851.50
Elevator        68,173.56
Smoke Detector System          9,460.26
   
Debt Service During Construction        46,430.86
Professional Fees (Architect/Engineer)        46,886.11
Permit Fees & Taxes (not included above)        24,339.75
Off-Site Improvements (LID Alley & Parking)        45,000.09
   
   
Total Restoration /Developmental Costs $1,358,000.68

 

The Merk

1339 Commerce Avenue
Longview, WA   98632

Building Hours:
8am - 6pm Monday - Friday
8am - 5pm Saturday
Closed on Sundays

Holiday Closures:
New Year's Day
Memorial Day
July 4th
Labor Day
Thanksgiving
Christmas

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