Where we beganWhen we purchased Clark Memorial Hall, the exterior façade was deteriorating quickly. Although at first glance things didn’t look that bad, as you got closer you started seeing all kinds of problems.
At some point, someone had covered up the original built-in gutters with plywood, shingled over it, and attached cheap aluminum gutters on the edges of the Mansard roof. There was also very poorly executed rubber roofing pieces installed that had seams that were cracking and failing.
Plants were growing in the gutters.
Dormer Windows Boarded up
The dormer windows were boarded up at some point in the early 1980s.
Multicolor & Deteriorating Paint
The previous owner appears to have attempted to repaint multiple times- – but gave up before completing each time. There are three different shades of maroon trim currently on the front of Clark Memorial Hall. The paint was flaking off and causing brick damage, most notably on the south side.
South Side Windows
5 windows on the south face of the building were boarded or bricked over.
Rusted Ornamental Features
Many of the decorative elements were rusted, or had missing pieces or leaking seams.
Spalled Brick & Sloppy Patching
During Adrian’s downtown boom in the 1860-1890s, most of the buildings were built with soft clay bricks made in town on the banks of the Raisin River. They are incredibly soft and delicate. The problem with painting soft brick is that moisture can get trapped in the brick, and the paint prevents it from properly evaporating. When this water inevitably freezes, it starts to cause the face of the brick to spall, permanently damaging it. Once the underlying unprotected and porous internal brick surfaces are exposed, it continues to deteriorate.
10+ Layers of Paint
On much of the trim, there were 10+ layers of paint (Green, Black, Silver, Gray, and numerous coats of white). This was most noticeable on the first floor façade trim. All underlying detail of the trim was gone.
2 Exterior Windows Replaced
The first thing we did was actually part of an interior renovation we did in early 2019. We pulled off the plywood on two of the exterior windows on the south façade, and had the old damaged windows replaced. This left only 3 remaining boarded up windows on the south side. All 3 of them are unable to be turned into windows again due to inside floor layouts, so, we’ll eventually be putting in 3 “fake” windows to make the south façade look uniform.
After attempting to collect bids for the exterior, we found it difficult to get a contractor willing to take on such a large project. The few bids we did receive were comically large and did not make financial sense.
We decided to tackle the building one small project at a time, and do so through the help of a smaller general contractor.
On October 1, 2019, we signed a contract for services, leaving it open ended, and Kirk Valentine, owner of Sphere Project Management got to work.
Sphere immediately started by taking extensive drone footage, giving us a close look at the many problem areas that we needed to address.
Since most of the deterioration and damage was due to water, it made logical sense to start with the mansard roof, and ensure that everything was sealed up and preventing water from tricking down into lower façade design elements.
He began researching who would be capable of such a job that was willing to bid the mansard roof project.
Grand River Builders
While COVID-19 caused a delay, later in 2020, we accepted a bid from Grand River Builders, a historical restoration specialty company, to strip down and restore the mansard roof.
Scaffolding Goes Up!
in October, 2020, Grand River Builders proceeded to put up an impressive amount of scaffolding on the East and South sides of the building.
They needed a solid work platform that they could move around in safely. It took approximately 2 weeks to put up the scaffolding in full, and build the plywood work spaces at the top. It was enclosed in plastic to create a working environment safe from wind and rain.
Mansard Roof Demo
Ripping into the existing Mansard Roof revealed 4 layers of asphalt shingles and LOTS of minor water damage to underlying flat roof areas.
Original Gutters Exposed
After tearing off all of the shingles and plywood, the original built in gutter system was exposed. Luckily, the underlying mansard roof boards were in good condition.
Dormer Windows Removed
In order to clean up joints where the dormer windows met the roof, they were removed temporarily from the roof. Copper would end up installed around all seams.
We decided to go with a period accurate slate roof, even though the original roof was stamped metal. Slate would have actually been more expensive in 1888 than stamped metal; so we’re actually giving the building an upgrade! Slate roofs can last 75-200 years.
Sheet Copper Flashing
Grand River Builders have a ton of experience with sheet copper. They used hundreds of pounds of copper re-lining the gutters, installing flashing around the dormer windows seams, and capping the dormer windows. Copper seams were soldered on-site.
3 slate shingle colors were used in a decorative pattern
Refabricated in Copper
Several decorative elements that were rusted and falling apart were re-fabricated from scratch using the originals as a guide. They were re-attached in December as the roof was nearing completion.
Other decorative elements were patched or riveted down and repaired.
Grand River also fabricated two replacement finials for the front corners of the building.
New Finials Installed
in April, 2021, the two new Finials were installed.
Mansard Roof Complete
In April 2021, the work that Grand River Builders did on the Mansard roof was completed.
Paint Removal Plans
Our plan for the building was to strip the brick of all paint, and leave it natural red.
We chose this due to the damage that paint causes to soft clay brick during Michigan’s freeze/thaw cycles. Bringing the building back down to natural brick will allow the brick to breathe; and prevent constant deterioration and the need to patch and re-paint every few years.
We hired Lenco Painting – a local contractor. Step 1 was a light power wash with low pressure so as to not damage the brick that was still in decent shape.
After trying about half a dozen chemical stripping products, we settled on one that seemed to work — but it was clear that it would take multiple applications. Sure enough, between 3 and 6 applications on every square inch of the entire 70′ x 30′ south façade was required in order to get to a relatively uniform red color. The process took nearly 3 months.
DIY Paint Stripping
While Lenco was working on the south side brick, I was getting worried about spiraling costs. I decided I would use my free time to begin stripping the east side window trim and doors with a heat gun so that I wouldn’t have to pay someone to. After a week or two, I enlisted the help of my mom, Lisa Maggard. She was handy with a heat gun as well since we grew up in a Victorian era house that she spent many years working on.
I uncovered one of the cast iron support columns of the Armory Block building buried under trim boards. Peculiar how they covered up stuff like that over the years.
As we continued to strip the woodwork on the front façade, we found that the rosettes were beyond repair due to water damage and paint. I found someone to 3d-print replacements that were similar to the originals. Later, I would nail them onto the woodwork before priming.
Continued Heat Gun Work
by late September, we were making real progress. We were uncovering detail in the woodwork that was not visible with 10+ layers of paint.
In all, we put in approximately 350 hours of work with the heat guns from August – October.
Door Hardware Restoration
On two of the original doors, I removed the heavily painted hardware and used a low heat (200F) overnight bake with some dish soapy water to strip the paint from the old cast iron.
I then primed and painted them gold. For the detail inlays, I used some thinned black enamel paint and a Q-tip to fill in the low spots to make the designs pop. I then hit them with multiple layers of clear lacquer to seal them. They have yet to be re-affixed to the building; we will wait until painting is complete!
South Side Stripping Completed
In October, Lenco finished stripping the south side brick.
There was significant brick damage that was uncovered, and nearly the entire south wall needed to be tuck-pointed.
We hired Adrian Masonry for the job.
Since the bricks were thinner than modern made bricks, Sphere Project Management was able to source bricks of similar color and size.
Approximately 550 bricks were chipped out and replaced, and the entire south façade was tuck pointed over the course of approximately 4 weeks.
Grand River Builders returned in November, 2021 for two reasons. The first was to install a set of custom fabricated downspouts. I sent them example photographs of various scuppers and bracket designs, and they came up with this design, which I absolutely love!
The Balcony in Disrepair
The second reason they came was the balcony. Earlier in the year, they explained that the cost to patch, repair, and refabricate the parts they need to while it was on our building would be higher than just taking the balcony off and re-building a new one from scratch over the winter back in their shop.
We agreed to a firm bid, and they came in November to begin the process of removing the balcony.
Removal of Balcony
After several hours of work to break it free, the balcony was removed from the building.
The Balcony Goes to Grand Rapids
After removing, they loaded the balcony on a trailer and took it back to Grand Rapids for the winter.
Front Façade Primed
After we fully stripped the first ~12′ of vertical façade wood trim, we patched up as many holes as we could and repaired several areas. Once finished, we primed the entire front so that we were ready for winter.
I imagine all the residents of Adrian were wondering why we re-painted everything white when we had just spend 3 months stripping it. Well, eventually we will be painting the trim different colors. We just had to prep it for painting! Rest assured it’s only primer!
New Storefront Glass
The original glass was not particular safe. It had cracks in numerous places. In addition, portions of the glass had been replaced or plywooded over, and then other panes had been painted. There was also etched permanent damage from various logos over the years that were installed, and it was also dangerous in that if it ever broke it was not safety glass (and It weighed a LOT!)
Jackson Glass was hired to replace 13 panes of glass on the storefront. Some of the panes were 10’x6′ and weighed over 550 pounds each. Modern double-pane glass was used.
Storefront Glass Completed
For a very reasonable price, the storefront glass was completed by early January.
February 2022 Update
By February, this is what Clark Memorial Hall looked like, and would look like for the next 3 months while we awaited better weather to continue the project.
Significant strides had been made in 2021.
Grand River Builders sent us this photo of the balcony fabrication in-progress.
Stripping the Front Façade
In May, 2022, Lenco Painting began to chemically strip the front of the building.
Chemical Stripping Progress
Throughout May and early June, progress continued as we peeled back 6-8 layers of paint. Certain areas required 6 applications of stripper.
Continued Stripping Progress
Throughout May and into June, Lenco slowly stripped off the paint.
On June 10, 2022, Stripping the paint from the brick was completed. The remaining white spots will be removed by the Masons – it’s mostly patching and caulk.
Door Restoration & Recreated Wood Panels
Kirk @ Sphere Project Management took off the two dry rotted doors on the north stairwell and took them back to his shop to fully restore them. All of the wood below the glass was fully replaced with reclaimed wood from the 1800s, all the brass hardware was removed, cleaned, polished, and internals cleaned and lubricated. In addition, a wood panel that was missing was refabricated from scratch to match the original panels beneath the rest of the storefront windows and installed.
Grand River Builders Arrives With Balcony Pieces
On June 21, 2022 Grand River Builders arrived with all of the custom fabricated copper pieces of the balcony. Each individual piece was made to fit together perfectly, and every single individual piece of copper was hand-crafted and hand-soldered together.
Balcony Installation Progress
Day 1 of Grand River’s installation schedule yielded significant progress on the balcony. The main piece and frame was affixed to the building and several additional pieces were attached. They worked in 96+ degree heat throughout the day.
Balcony Install – Day 2
Large Cornice pieces were secured by the end of day 2. Panels of sheet copper were affixed to the roof (or floor, if you’re standing on it!) of the balcony, and then the joints individually soldered by hand. Again, 94+ degree temps made the day a long and tiresome one for Grand River’s employees.
Next steps to be completed in 2022
- Re-fabricated Balcony Installation (In progress)
- Additional downspout work
- Replacement of several wooden trim pieces on front façade (In progress)
- Masons – replace damaged brick and tuckpoint entire front façade
We’re not sure if we’ll get to painting trim in 2022.