After over a decade of dormancy, Fairhaven will again serve the Denton community as a retirement home. The building’s new owners opened its doors to the public Friday afternoon for a ceremony to mark the restoration project.
A modest crowd gathered outside the midcentury modern building, its jagged contours and graffiti-stained walls revealing years of disrepair. Several Denton City Council members attended the ceremony, and curious residents could explore the structure’s decrepit interior.
Holli Hasserodt, regional vice president of parent company New Haven Assisted Living & Memory Care, made the ceremony’s opening remarks.
“We are so excited to kick off the restoration of this historic building here,” she said. “We plan to keep as much history here in this building and continue the legacy of affordable quality care for seniors.”
Fairhaven Denton by New Haven, at 2400 N. Bell Ave., is expected to be complete by March 2020.
Since Fairhaven closed in 2007, vagrants and vandals have found shelter in the building’s cool interior. But its engineers built the structure to last.
Designed by famed Denton architect O’Neil Ford, with help from Roland Laney and Arch Swank, the original Fairhaven operated for 42 years. With its solid frame of brick and concrete, the building still stands strong.
Fairhaven reincarnate will marry the old with the new, said Justin Hobson, a real estate developer at Austin-based Investcor. Though the structure will stay true to its original design, it will also boast state-of-the-art appliances and modern amenities.
Hobson plans to install a library, sunroom, bistro, exercise room and private dining hall in the 47-unit building. Residents can anticipate meals made from fresh organic produce, yoga classes and trips to Fairhaven’s own beauty salon. A natural spring will feed into a small koi pond, which residents can admire during walks around the 3.3-acre property.
Even though the 32,000-square-foot facility will offer cutting-edge comforts, Hobson said Fairhaven packages will be reasonably priced. He estimates a housing rate of $3,600 to $3,800 per month.
“We’re not trying to be the Neiman Marcus of retirement homes, and we’re not trying to be like the Walmart,” he said. “We’re trying to be like the Target — a value play in the middle.”
Hobson has worked closely with the head of the nonprofit Historic Denton, Randy Hunt, throughout Fairhaven’s reconstruction.
Retrofitting the building to its original design has been a tedious, grueling process, Hobson said. But with Hunt’s guidance, Investcor secured a 45% tax incentive from the city and earned Fairhaven a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Denton’s historic preservation officer, Roman McAllen, said the significance of the designation can’t be overstated.
“I know there are people in the country who would pay a premium to stay in a retirement home designed by O’Neil Ford that’s on the National Register of Historic Places,” he said.
While architecture buffs may marvel at the building’s unique history, Hobson prefers recounting Fairhaven’s lesser-known origin story.
During the mid-1950s, indigent elderly people in need of housing had very few options, he said. Most families without wealth had to send aging relatives to live in “poorhouses,” which offered a substandard quality of life.
Then in 1956, an industrious group of women led by Myrtle Richardson, president of the Denton Business and Professional Women’s Club, decided to change that.
Richardson orchestrated a string of fundraisers to open a new breed of nursing home — one where she’d feel comfortable placing her own mother. After years of effort, substantial donations, and robust community support, Richardson and company opened Fairhaven on Feb. 14, 1965.
“I think that is the bigger story: the collective community effort to create something for their seniors,” Hobson said. “It was very selfless, it was very inspirational, and it was done by a group of women in the 1950s.”
According to a 1964 Denton Record-Chronicle article documenting the groundbreaking, Fairhaven’s finance chairman announced he hoped to someday erect a sign emblazoned with the words “Happiness Lives Here.” But Hobson said as far as he knows, that dream was never realized.
That’s why when Fairhaven reopens in 2020, Hobson will honor the home’s history by forging the sign that never was: Happiness Lives Here.
Historical preservation efforts are necessary to maintaining Denton’s character and culture, Hunt said. Although the renovation process has been riddled with many unforeseen challenges, Fairhaven’s proponents believe it will be worth it.
It’s buildings with stories like Fairhaven’s that make Denton worth living in, Hunt said.
“Denton has all these really cool [buildings],” he said. “And if we keep on tearing them down, what’s cool about Denton?”