The History of Hell N' Blazes

1002 East New Haven Avenue – A Brief Architectural History

In 1894, the first building was built on this site by Charles Stewart and Frank Fee. Both were prominent citizens in town, each serving as Mayor for periods of time. The two ran a hardware store out of the wooden frame building. Initially the building was only about 57’ deep. Around 1910, a 52’ addition was built on to the rear of the building.

The business is mentioned in an article in the Indian River Advocate dated February 9, 1894 and an article in the Florida Star dated July 20th of that same year. This article relays that Stewart and Fee operated a store and an undertaking room.

Fee and Stewart often had to extend credit to their Hardware store customers. With the nearest bank North in St. Augustine, it seemed natural for the pair to found the first local bank. The Melbourne State Bank, begun in April of 1893, operated out of the Hardware Store. The original Diebold safe remains in the building to this day.

Sometime in the early 1910’s/20’s, one of the first elevators in Florida was installed in the hardware store. Manually operated by a series of pulleys and gears, the elevator was used for transporting goods between the two floors. The elevator remained in situ until the recent renovation, when it was carefully disassembled and removed from the shaft in order to be placed on display in the Brewery’s Tasting room.

In 1919, a fire ravaged through the wood frame structures that comprised much of the downtown area on Front Street. Most of these businesses rebuilt, relocating their buildings to New Haven Avenue, thus shifting downtown to where it is today. The fire raised awareness to the vulnerability of wood frame buildings and drove Stewart and Fee to fire-proof their building. Terra cotta block and brick were added like a shell onto the frame building. Around this time, the building was expanded another 40’ to the rear. That external structure of that addition was built only of terra cotta block. Stewart and Fee’s business now included farming supplies, furniture, a bank and an undertaking parlor. Fee sold his interest in the business and moved to Fort Pierce, leaving Stewart to operate the business solo. In 1938, the building was sold to Harvey Huggins who continued operation of a hardware store.

The new brick façade was notably different from the frame building. The three entrances were replaced with one central entry. Above the large storefront glazing, a continuous ribbon of transom glass was added. In photos, this glass appears to be ‘prismatic glass’ – a popular material at the time. The small repetitive second floor windows were replaced with larger windows and transoms. A large metal canopy which tied back to round stays on the brick façade was also added. The brick was patterned with great detail, creating visible interest on the otherwise flat façade. Huggins also added the projecting sign which would become a defining feature of the building for decades.

Huggin’s Hardware had the first telephone in Melbourne. Their number was simply “1.”

The middle portion of the building, part of the addition built in 1910, housed an open stair and a two-story space. Here this space is shown in a later photo, date unknown, possibly 1950’s/60’s.

Over the next few decades, the ownership of the building and business changed hands a few times (it was owned and run by Jack Horne, the Struble and the Meyer’s family) but was still called Huggin’s Hardware into the 1970’s. Sometime in the late 1950’s the metal canopy is removed from the building. Reasons are unknown, but perhaps relate to structural issues.

Also, at some point in the 1960’s, two of the five second-story windows were increased in size. The sill heights were dropped an additional 18 inches. A canopy was added back, this time more utilitarian in appearance. Somewhere in this time period, the middle three second story windows were closed in and faux flagstone added to the first story façade. The transom windows above the storefront were also covered up.

In the 1970’s, the building housed as a television studio for local TV1. They converted what had been the two-story circulation space into their studio. The proximity of the train tracks and the vibrations of the passing trains created some issues with the proper function of the television cameras.

The building changed hands a short time later. The Lopresti family operated the Christmas Cottage here, a year-round Christmas themed marketplace, for 30 years.

In 2015, Don and Clare DiFrisco bought the property in order to convert the building into a craft brewery while restoring the building’s appearance.

Great care was taken to preserve the integrity of the structure throughout the restoration. The initial intent was to remove the paint from the brick façade. Because of the application, age and amount of paint, removing it would have severely damaged the original brick. The solution was to add face brick over the original brick. While not a technical restoration, this was the only way to return the building appearance. Attention was given to replicating the decorative brick pattern work of the original façade. The horizontal metal canopy was added back to provide useful covering for the entry and sidewalk. The transom windows above the storefront were opened up and the storefront windows were replaced. The center three windows of the second story were opened back up. The sill heights were maintained at their later, lower height as those openings were still present. Due to building code requirements, the windows are impact rated and thus have a slightly heavier looking frame.

On the interior, the original tin ceilings were cleaned and repainted. The heartwood pine floors were refinished. In the middle and rear sections of the building, where there was no tin ceiling, the floor joists were left exposed. In the rear game room, the terra cotta brick was painted for purposes of sealing, but otherwise left exposed.

At some point in the course of its lifetime, the building was retrofitted with electricity, plumbing and central air. These systems were strong-armed into the building as space would allow. Duct work and air handlers, specifically, detracted from the architecture of the space. During the renovation, the decision was made to use exposed spiral ductwork in the building. Spiral ductwork is aesthetically pleasing in and of itself and allowed for the tin ceiling to remain exposed above. Along with the ceiling, the original wood post and beams with their diagonal bracing are the focus of the space, while the ductwork recedes into the background.

When modifications were being made near the storefront of the building during renovation work, the original stepped entries were rediscovered north of what is now the exterior of the building. The wood framed building, pre-fire proofing, had three separate entrances with their own stairs. These stairs still exist in the crawl space beneath the Brewery. A few discarded items from the building’s lifetime were found in this crawl space.

More pieces of history were found when prepping the center of the building for the new Brewhouse. If you recall, the building was built in thirds. The second section featured an open stair and two-story space surrounded by railing and open to below. This ceiling of this space featured the remnants of what had been operable skylights, probably used primarily for ventilation. The height in this area was perfect for the brewing vats, but the floor structure was not. In order to provide a structurally sound base for the massive brewery equipment, the wood floor structure was removed and a concrete slab poured in place. In prepping for the concrete pour, many objects were unearthed ranging from bottles to coins to a piece of lumber stamped with the “STEW” of STEWART, relating to the original name of the Hardware store.

There were reports of an airplane crash in the 1940s with the bodies of several young children being brought to this mortuary, but other reports state they went to Brownlee mortuary instead.

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