mike wolfe jo johnston

After a year and a half of collaborating with contractors and architects on the restoration of an 1898 building that many people said would just end up as a big pile of bricks, Mike is proud to unveil his latest preservation project!

Located on Jo Johnston Street, minutes from the honky-tonks of downtown Nashville, (and just down the block from Antique Archaeology’s front door) now stands a fully restored two-story brick building, the most recent addition to the vintage Marathon Village community. The space, which in the century before it fell into ruin housed everything from a grocery store to a dancehall to a restaurant, is once again open for business in Nashville.

We will let Mike show you around…

“I approach all these projects the same by trying to learn as much as I can about the building. I wanna know what its purpose was, what time period it stood in, and how it was significant to the community. The buildings I’m tethered to have to be more than historic structures; they also have to be located in historic districts. My home in LeClaire, for example, was built in 1860 as a general store. Even my Antique Archaeology shop is located in an old car manufacturing plant from the 1880s. Along the way, I’ve learned that when it comes to working in/ restoring these you gotta consider how you can honor their history while making it possible for them to succeed in the present.”

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“Here’s the street view of the place. I’m standing on the corner of 14th Avenue North and Jo Johnston. If you turn to the right, you can see the Nashville skyline and practically hear the music from Broadway. Anyone who has ever visited Antique Archaeology will quickly recognize the water tower of the Marathon Motor Works building where the shop is. Like I said, this building was constructed in 1898. When you look at the before photos, you’ll see just how little of the structure was still holding on. (Gold leaf window lettering by Canned Pineapple)

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“Check out that iron skeleton! You see that up there? That’s supporting the roof and second story.”

Untitled51“The state it was in before was pretty rough, as you can see. It was so bad, it took me a long time to even find a contractor who would take it on. I had a number of them tell me I was gonna end up with a pile of bricks sitting on an empty lot. I wasn’t intimidated, though. I just needed to find the right company to match my passion and determination on the project.” (Dowdle Construction Group and architect Nick Dryden

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“We really wanted to make sure we gave the place an open floor plan to accommodate it as a future retail space. With a few modifications, we were able to give it a modern upgrade in a timeless way.”

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“These bricks are the storytellers of the space. They’ve been part of the location for more than a hundred years! Salvaging as many of them as possible was a huge priority during this restoration.”

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“I insisted on leaving the brick walls exposed versus smothered in plaster. It’s a reminder of the many lives this building has had. Almost takes you back in time for a minute and you’re able to imagine this place as the grocery store for the community it once was all those years ago.”

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“The interior has a real industrial vibe to it with the concrete floors and iron beams. The additional windows draw lots more natural light inside too.”

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“The upstairs area features salvaged wooden floors that give it more warmth – a different feel from the concrete floors downstairs.” (Floors by Garlan Gudger of Southern Accents Architectural Salvage)

“Whether it’s a building in a historically significant part of town, or one that’s traditionally important to the local community, or even one that simply has an interesting story all its own, each one is special. With neglect and rapid development threatening the architecture that makes every city unique, there has never been a better moment to be part of the generation that rescues history. I encourage everyone to join the preservation efforts in their own town in any way they can.”

The current tenant of the Jo Johnston property is Slumerican

Join the club! Inspired by one of Mike’s favorite motorcycle picks, this shirt is ready to roll! Get our AA Moto Club graphic tee!

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40 Comments

40 thoughts on “Take A Look Inside Mike’s Latest Preservation Project”

  1. Murray Dinneen

    WOW!!! What an amazing transformation. From nothing to…. Wickered. Still enjoy the way you can see what something can become when it is sooo bad. AMAZING.

  2. Thomas Murphy

    Great job ,I have restored a many buds like what you just took on and ,I know the pain you went through to save our history,Many will never feel that pain ,But what it does to your soul ,and all those that will see what you brought back ,For their souls ,Is what’s its all about . Again my friend .Great Job ! Murphy ,cold spring ,Ky

  3. Jim C.

    great job Mike…you and all those who worked with you to make this building live again, should be commended…in this day and age, it is so important to preserve as much of our history as is possible….keep up the good work.

  4. Robert Bierman

    Absolutely amazing restoration. I can’t wait to come to Nashville to visit both stores. Thank you for preserving history and saving the building

  5. Stuart Aitken

    Love your show guy’s. Here in Australia your show is amazing guy’s. I’m a Kiwi living here and can appreciate what you do in saving the history of your country. Will visit your store in the next few years.

  6. Mark Foreman United Kingdom

    You’ve all done a great job on saving and restoring that building! I love a good old brick too, having picked old London bricks and driven them down to darkest Cornwall to build my garden walls (320 miles) A nice mix.
    Keep up the work and my favourite tv program

  7. Patty

    Mike we watch your show all the time. My husband and I are auction collectors and we have found some rare unique items that are priceless. It’s fun and exciting to discover things of long ago. Thank you for your entertainment and perseverance. Your show is great!

  8. Regina Argabrite

    That is fantastic ! I love old buildings . So many are getting torn down. Even my town it is so sad. I’ve watched so many with a lot history behind them get torn down and our city officials have no regrets. Glad to see someone else enjoys the true value of our history.

  9. Mike McKay

    Awesome job Mike! You’re the perfect custodian for this and other amazing, historical ‘Americana’ !
    Keep up the amazing work man, it’s a privilege for me to watch you at work on your TV series, and
    I love receiving your emails! Blessings, Mike from Ireland!

  10. Mark D Beaumont

    Mike:
    Your passion for the people, buildings and objects you find during your journeys is inspiring; just like your passion for restoring this building. Great job. May you achieve sainthood for putting up with Frank!

    Cheers!

    Mark

  11. Jayne Ansberry

    For all the projects you’ve worked on, I’m so happy not only for you but for the communities that this effects in such a positive way. They may take time to get back up & running, but it is so worth it! The Historic Variety Theatre project, (that won The National Trust For Historic Preservation & your “This Place Matters” campaign contest last year), back in Cleveland, Ohio is still taking time but things are at least slowly moving along. Surrounding the theatre are now ready-to-go spaces available for rent that will help in further funding for the theatre’s restoration. Across the street they created more room for parking for the theatre too. You burn inside for the desire to have it all be completed as soon as possible, but nothing worth its weight in gold ever comes easily. You should be proud! What a monumental effort that turned out gloriously! Hats off to you & all those who helped along the way. Hugs.

  12. D

    What a fantastic restoration. One by one, keep your visions going. What a great show you have. The best. You are so blessed to have the ability to see something people just get rid of, or piles of rust and bricks, to repurpose, to restore what once was, keep up the great work. We hope you keep your show going for a long time. You have changed so many people to take a look around, to see what they can do. Kudos, Mike. All of you do a great job.

  13. Ed

    Outstanding results. Kudos to Mr. Wolfe and everyone involved with the project. It only takes one person to make a difference! Mr. Wolfe is doing it. Awesome.

  14. Steve

    Wow, what a treasure. Having lived in the Nashville area for 30 years I recognize this building and the Marathon Village area. What you are doing with the restoration of these buildings is a real gift to Nashville. May your tribe increase.

  15. Elaine Massarelli

    Hi Mike,
    Love your show ! Love your enthusiasm!!!! You and Frank are quite a team

    Beautiful job on that building, I hope to get to Nashville to see it, keep up the GREAT Work

    Best wishes
    Elaine and Ed from Florida (big fans)

  16. Ted McCabe

    You did a great job on the hotel, thank God we have someone that keeps the past. I have something that would look great in the hotel, Google Jacob Mark, I have a sun light catcher made on 1873. Not sure how many of these are left, can sent picture.

  17. barry yanaky

    Great show and a great job restoring the building. It is not unusual to find a hundred year old hamilton railway pocket watch in perfect working order with proper care and this should apply to hundred year old buildings. Great job preserving history.

  18. Anthony Gonzalez

    I’m a bit of a people watcher. The thing that stands out the most to me about you and your team, the one thing I feel makes your show a success story is that it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. I watched this guy do a whole speech on this. I wish I could remember his name right now but the point is, he was dead on. It is abundantly clear that you all care about why you are doing what you do. It’s the way you do your best to keep the story alive, because the story is the thing. I am born and raised in one of our country’s oldest cities… Alexander Hamilton, Sam Colt, The Great Falls, Silk City, Paterson, New Jersey. I wish I could bring it back. Your passion gives hope!!

  19. Judy Horton

    Mike,
    I am glad you did not give up on the restoration. The building is beautiful and now, once again useful.
    I love watching you and Frank.

  20. George Seguin

    Great job Mike. You are quite the historian. We love your show and would really like to get to Nashville to see your store…..

  21. Gregory T. Tillman

    Mike, Good bless you for the work you do for all of us. Am 66 this year, am riding my motorcycle from Reno to Santa Monica getting on the start of Route 66 and riding to the end at Chicago. You and your show family have inspired me. Be well brother.

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