Poe Restoration Company at work using a pressure washer to remove stripper.
Poe Restoration Company has been applying a non-toxic stripper to the bricks and power washing it off to remove the sealant applied many years ago. The sealant was applied to stop the bricks from spalling (crumbling). Instead, the sealant held moisture inside the brick where is froze in the winter, expanded, and dramatically accelerated the deterioration of the brick. Severly damaged brick is being removed and the inner wythe examined. Historically accurate, soft brick and mortar will be used to repair the structure.
The crumbling, modern era, poured cement porch has been removed. A limestone, cement and brick reproduction of the original staircase and porch will be built. Much of the east side of the building was obscured for many years by a long wooden ramp that made the building wheel chair accessible. Phase II interior restoration provides a barrier free entrance to the building on the south side and an elevator to all levels within.
The window design over the east door is well preserved. The elaborate use of curved muntins arranged in a repeated arch motif is characteristic of the late century devotion to patterned decoration. The windows of the east wall display a great variety of size and shape. Their purpose was to illuminate the double grand staircase and landing within and that was accomplished with an almost playful spirit.
Decades ago the basement was used as a meeting room. Although there were two exits is place, a third exit was created by cutting through the south facade and building a small brick structure to house the stairs leading out. Restoration has removed that addition. The stairs will be pulled out, the gap filled in, and all brick and damaged limestone will be replaced. Without this obtrusive addition it will once again be possible to admire the great arch theme of the south side.
The east entrance minus the modern, crumbling cement porch.
The "dog house" is gone. The obtrusive entrance to the basement meeting room is now history.
The photo to the right looks into the approach to the hose tower and one of two entrances in the south facade. The stairs and landing were made of wood which has been removed. The doorway on the right will be replaced with a wooden door. Doors and windows will duplicate the original designs as closely as possible and will match.
The detail shot on the right shows the remains of the bottom steps that lead to the south east entrance. Several years ago the steps were restored using cement block and poured cement. This side of the building faces prevailing winds so rain, snow and ice take their toll. Blistering summer heat adds to the stress. Removal of the damaged materials lets us see that the rusticated (rough hewn) limestone is not solid blocks of stone creating the buttresses but is, instead, a thin veneer that covers up the brick within.
The wooden ramp mentioned above obscured the charming little niche below the window. Nobody knows why a niche is there or what, if anything, it ever held.
The tape and plastic visible on the far right are there to protect the plaque that identifies the building as listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a common misperception that such a listing provides protection to old structures. It does not. The only way to truly protect and preserve historic buildings for posterity is to create an historic district around them and equip it with an historic district ordinance.
The modern, deteriorating steps and porch have been removed from the entrance at the base of the hose tower.
South east entrance with one section of rusticated limestone removed.
With the handicap ramp removed it is possible to see details obscured for years and that raises new questions> What was the niche for?
The 1884 cornerstone.
The corner stone was also hidden behind the wood ramp. The stone was opened back in the '70's and we'll see if we can ask some eye witnesses about the contents.
The detail shot on the left is of a window on the north side of the building. The limestone window sill is clearly seen and directly beneath the sill is a row of the dark red bricks. To the right of the window you can see that after every five rows (courses) of regular terra cotta colored brick they switched to the red brick. These are the unusual bonding courses. Look carefully at the exposed underside of four of those bricks seen immediately beneath the sill. You can see that the bricks have been cut into a point that juts out the rear. That point notches into a V shaped recess in the inner wythe. It is not common to see that bonding technique used in late 19th century brick work. An external dog tooth pattern of jutting brick corners created by bricks laid diagonally to the course below is a common exterior decorative technique. Here it is used inside the wall to create receptecal notches. The ancient Romans did a similar thing with face brick in a wall system known as opus laetericium. The face brick had points jutting out the back that anchored into a cement and rubble fill interior of the wall. See a close up of a "pointed brick" below.
The north west corner of the building had damage that penetrated into the second and even the third wythe of brick. The removal of the damaged brick opened up the top few feet of the corner to reveal an iron rod used to anchor a roof beam to the wall. As the wall was built and approached the final courses an iron rod was anchored in the wythes and remained jutting out till a roof beam was drilled out and slid down over it.
Local lore says the bricks were made from clay dug from a pit on the north side of Degurse St. It is known that there were two brick making yards in Marine City. The surviving office for one of the clamps or scoves (ovens) is now incorporated into a house on Belle River Rd. The second office is part of an outbuilding in the back yard of house on the same street one block further north.
North facade with the shape of the red bricks revealed.
The north west corner of the Hall. An iron rod that anchors a roof beam to the wall is visible.
This is an intact "bonding brick", so called because it served to anchor the exterior wythe to the interior. It was manufactured with two rectangular holes through the body of the brick. One is open and visible on the left side and the other is obscured by a smear of mortar on the right side. Two "ears" were roughly trimmed back to create a point. This is not the red brick that originally formed the stripes encircling the building