When the snow starts to fly in the high country, some of our clients share the same concerns on whether their fragile historic structure will survive the winter. This was the case at our North London Mill Project. Last fall we completed a temporary stabilization of the Office to ensure the structure remained standing for the next phase of work. Knowing we encounter similar building conditions and concerns, we wanted to share a bit about the process.
The North London Mill is located along Mosquito Pass, one of Colorado’s most infamous 4WD roads that runs between Leadville and Alma. Snow starts falling in October and, some years, it doesn’t let up until late spring/early summer. However, the high winds in the region are year-round. These high country mining structures are at great risk due to the unpredictable snow and wind loads, as illustrated by what is left of them.
The office received a State Historical Fund Grant in 2018 to complete temporary stabilization and construction documents for the rehabilitation of the building and just received notice of award for another SHF grant to complete the first phase of construction work.
Since the Office is in the best condition of all the remaining structures on the site, it was determined as the best place to start. The building will be adapted into a backcountry ski hut, offering a place of respite and relaxation after an epic day of skiing found right out the back door.
The stabilization grant began with evaluation and documentation. We developed permit documents, that underwent review by History Colorado for compliance with all Secretary of the Interior Standards. Once approved they were submitted to Park County.
The temporary stabilization efforts included the installation of shoring and brace framing on the interior of the Office. The interior wood lathe was removed, except for an area where we encapsulated it, in order to straighten the framing and pin it in place (Note the horizontal boards at the bottom of the wall framing in the photos above). The brick chimneys were deconstructed to prevent them from falling. Flooring and trim was uninstalled and stacked. A lot of the material has already been lost and some of the surviving material will be too deteriorated and rotten to reuse. But we will reuse what we can and utilize the remaining for patterns in recreating material.
The most important piece of the temporary stabilization activities was enclosing the roof, doors and windows to help slow water from entering the building. A temporary visqueen membrane was installed with wood battens on the roof. The door and window openings were enclosed with plywood.
This Summer the Office will get a new foundation and the framing and structure will be rehabilitated. New structural members will be integrated into the framing to bring the building up to current code, making it better able to cope with the areas snow and wind loads.
Another part of this Summer’s grant will involve the preparation of stabilization documents for the Mill Building, a much bigger task than the 6-room Office Building. Utilizing similar methodology, our team will design stabilization documents that will hopefully be implemented before next winter.
Future projects for the Office will replace the roof, install windows, doors and siding, as well as interior finishes to make it officially habitable as a hut. Fortunately historic photographs of the site gave us clues to detail the missing exterior features.
The Mill projects will include stabilization and rehabilitation activities to make the site safe for the public. Preliminary planning is underway to program the site into a year-round destination, providing backcountry and outdoor training and hosting a plethora of events. The project is spearheaded by Jeff Crane and Kate McCoy, of North London Mill Preservation Inc., a non-profit team working tirelessly to find funding partners to tackle this sizable project. Multi-phased projects may seem intimidating, however this is a common practice for us. It all starts with proper planning. Our first step began with completing a Historic Structures Assessment to determine the overall list of needs for the site. Then working with the North London Team we developed the prioritized plan. Now it is just a matter of tackling them one by one.
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