Old digs learn new tricks

More than doubling the original practice size, this hospital set out to expand
Apr 01, 2010

Floor Plan
The headline reads, "Monmouth now boasts finest dog hospital." Written in 1930, this article in the Asbury Park Sunday Press lauded a local veterinary facility for providing all number of creature comforts. Fast-forward 80 years, and the same headline still applies. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Oakhurst, N.J., has been home to a long line of veterinarians—and the doctors still practice out of the original brick building on Monmouth Road. But to say there have been a few changes in these 80 years is a serious understatement.

In the 24 years that Drs. Scott Delaney and Gene Wefer, best friends and business partners, have owned Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, they've added on and renovated twice for a total of 21,225 square feet. That's 14,525 more square feet than the original doctors had when they opened their doors in 1926. But while the current practice owners have added tons of technology, upgraded interior materials, and vastly increased the space, what hasn't changed is their commitment to great pet care and a devotion to the landmark building's signature look.

A look at the numbers
The doctors' efforts to expand with history in mind earned them a 2010 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition merit award. They are enjoying a 10 percent increase in business, as well as the benefits of practicing in a beautiful, high-tech facility.

Holding on to the past while moving forward

What started as a 6,700-square-foot brick-face veterinary hospital in 1926 turned into a booming business over the years, with several generations of veterinarians practicing there before the business was sold to Drs. Wefer and Delaney in 1986. A need for more space and updated interior motivated the doctors to renovate in 2000, but it just wasn't enough. Shortly after completing the renovation, the doctors started planning the next phase of expansion.

One of their main goals—and obstacles—was undertaking such a huge expansion while retaining the history of the original building. "It would have been much easier and less expensive to have moved across town," says Dr. Delaney. "It was a huge challenge to do the renovation and expansion at the level we did, but we loved the building when we bought it 20 years ago and wanted to build something that would stand the test of time."

To maintain the original architecture of the hospital, the doctors and their builders took care to find and create bricks that matched the original bricks on the exterior. The brick mason built numerous small walls to compare with the exterior, finally settling on a combination of bricks mixed just so.

Another nod to the past is found in the wooden benches in the reception area. "We wanted to capture the feeling of the past in a high-quality way," says Dr. Delaney. "Our carpenter designed custom-made benches with an inlay of three colors of wood with details that really stand out."

Other challenges included matching the floors of the new addition up with the existing floors, keeping the practice up and running while building on the same lot (a neighboring business rented parking spaces to the hospital team so they could have a place to park during construction), and maintaining consistent design details throughout the building.