Places & Faces
Noble Building Celebrates 100 Years
9/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
Noble Building

The Noble Building at 324 Pujo St. in downtown Lake Charles recently celebrated its 100th birthday in grand style. Thanks to Rick and Donna Richard, the old building has been given a new lease on life. 

The Noble Building is now home to The Villa Harlequin, an upscale Italian eatery owned and operated by Mike Sperandeo and the Nic Hunter Family. There are also three rental apartments above the restaurant. 

Built in 1919 by D.R. Swift, past tenants include a savings and loan firm, an insurance company, and a doctor's office. Oilman C.O. Noble was an early tenant, with offices on the second floor. He eventually acquired the building in the 1930s, and the Noble oil operations occupied the space until the Richards bought the building in 2012. 

Another early tenant was F. Shutts Engineers. Frank Shutts and his sons had offices in first floor rear. They remained tenants from the 1930s until the 1960s, when Webb and Whittaker Engineers took over the space. In the early 1960”s, the Majestic Barber Shop left the Pioneer Building next door and moved to the Noble Building. It served patrons until construction started for the Villa in late 2015.  

"We submitted an application for the building to be named on the National Register of Historic Places,” says Donna Richard. "It was granted in 2014, based on the fact that Elmer Shutts, first Port civil engineer, had his office in the building. His former office is now a small private dining room in The Villa Harlequin. The other Shutts offices were adapted into restrooms, using the original doors.”

Richard says that once they settled on the architect, the project took about a year. "Rick and I are thrilled with the results. The contemporary feel of the interior is complementary to the traditional early 1900s architecture.”

"We had started some demo work taking out termite-damaged floorboards and removing broken plaster,” Richard remembers.  "I had been looking for a location to do The Villa again for several years, and for one reason or another, nothing I looked at was quite right,” Sperandeo explains.  "The locations were either too big, too small, too costly, etc. Donna Richard knew I had been looking for a location to do my restaurant, and one day, she contacted me and told me that she and Rick had bought The Noble Building.”

Sperandeo said that Donna Richard set up a meeting for him to walk through the building. "The first time I went to look at it was before renovations had started, but I saw the potential in its old bones, and fell in love with it. I said, ‘Let’s do it.’” 

"The timing was perfect to get Mike involved in adapting the downstairs space into his restaurant,” Richard says. "Life's circumstances happened that Lauren couldn't stay on board to see the project to completion, but she recommended the John Williams firm out of New Orleans to take the ball from there. They have done old buildings and restaurants in New Orleans, so this project was a good fit for them. They took Lauren's plans, tweaked them a tiny bit, and got the project to completion.”

In addition to the Noble Building, the Richards’ company, Empire of the Seed, has either purchased and restored or built three other downtown buildings, including the historic Calcasieu Marine National Bank (circa 1928), the historic Cash and Carry building (circa 1936) on the corner of Broad and Enterprise, and the Phoenix Building on the corner of Ryan and Kirby St. 

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