MOUNT VERNON — Begun in May, the latest phase of the Woodward Opera House restoration project is within two weeks of completion. By Oct. 31, nearly 3,000 square feet of the second floor will be ready for the final touches of redecorating and finding office tenants, thus restoring the space to its original functionality.
Project manager Pat Crow said the Woodward Development Corp. bids all projects and does everything it can to use local contractors: The two prime contractors are Modern Builders and Cosby Heating and Cooling.
Crow said it is often tricky to balance historical preservation with modern requirements. “Existing conditions might not meet code,” he said. “That makes this kind of work more painstaking and time consuming, but also rewarding.”
Major structural repairs to the second floor have been completed, including bringing two outside staircases up to fire code. The Vine Street stairway was leaning to one side, so that had to be remedied. Workmen also removed every tread and riser on both staircases, installed fire block, strengthened the stringers and replaced the tread and risers.
Before replacing the ceilings on the second floor, workmen structurally reinforced the third-floor floor which is the theater area. Besides needing to be acoustically correct, the second floor ceilings, Crow said, had to be replaced to bring them up to fire code. They are of suspended double drywall construction.
All the plaster walls have been repaired or replaced with new plaster [wallboard cannot be used], minor masonry work around fireplaces has been done and the rough-in electrical conduit work is finished.
Everything of the original construction which could be salvaged has been: Doors, windows, wainscoting, baseboards and hardware such as hinges and door knobs. What couldn’t be reclaimed is matched as carefully as possible to the original, such as the light fixtures which have been replicated. Crow said he has been cleaning the decorative cast iron door hinges at home. He cooks them in a crock pot with Dawn for 8 to 10 hours, then scrapes off the paint. That may have to be done three or four times before the original metal is revealed, Crow said.
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