401 Foster St. was constructed around 1930 as a post-and-beam warehouse, very similar in construction to the Garrard Warehouses nearby. This warehouse, and the warehouse immediately to its west (up a very steep grade to Roney St.) were operated by the WP Henry Company, and noted as "Lessee, Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company"
As Foster St. rapidly transitioned from an area of primarily sparse, small residential structures to an automobile mecca in the 1930s-1940s, the warehouse was converted to a auto service and sales building - likely circa 1940. The interior posts were removed, the roof was re-supported by steel trusses, and the front facade of the building was stuccoed. The building was the longtime home to the Williams Motor Company. By the late 1950s, Williams was also selling vehicles as a Nash dealership, having adopted the name "Williams-Nash Motor Company."
A very partial view of the front facade of 401 Foster from behind the buildings on the east side of the street, 1957. A piece of the vertical "NASH" sign can be seen protruding above the building on the right.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun)
By 1970, the dealership had closed, and the building became home to Southeastern Radio Supply company.
The building was still owned by a trust that had evolved from Southeastern Radio when Andy Rothschild approached the ownership about converting the structure to an arts-focused development. Per Andy, the idea for this type of development had percolated for a period of time, given his longstanding interest in the arts. He states that the development itself arose out of a confluence of this interest with increasing confidence in the viability of the development and a desire to create space for a few of the artists that would be leaving the Venable Warehouse, given his proposed development of that group of structures.
401 Foster, looking southwest, 2004.
(Courtesy Joe Fitzsimons)
The development, termed 401 Arts, proceeded in mid-2005, with initial tenants such as the Branch Gallery moving into their space in early 2006
11.02.05 (Scientific Properties)
By the end of 2006, Piedmont and the Bull City Arts Collaborative were in their spaces as well. The popularity of the venues housed in 401 Foster has helped create an energetic space extending from the YMCA to the Farmers' Market/Scrap Exchange area. Andy described the success of 401 as the 'test-case' that provided the confidence to proceed with the Golden Belt redevelopment, a significantly larger-scale mixed-use/arts-centered development that is welcoming its first tenants this week.
Looking northwest, 06.07.08 (Copyright Gary Kueber)
My personal preference would have been to recreate the pilasters and sills, even if they needed to be relocated to accomodate the bays
As of 2011, Urban Durham Realty, BCAC, Piedmont Restaurant, and DaisyCakes were tenants; the Central Park area to the north and east grew by leaps and bounds during 2011-2012, giving the entire neighborhood a thriving 'lifestyle destination' character.