Starting On the Right Footing

Last week, the first of the concrete trucks arrived and we poured the east and west footings inside the hotel. This was not part of the seismic upgrade but it was done as a “best practice” to replace the old method of supporting the ground level floor joists

The new footings replace the old wooden shims that originally held up the mud sills under the floor. The old shims served okay for the last 150 years but they were really a makeshift solution that should never have been.

As you can see in this view from under the floor, the mud sill is about 8″ above the top of the stone foundation wall and the gap was filled with a length of 4″ x 4″ and several scraps of pine flooring hammered into place. This has been replaced with rebar and concrete.

The new concrete replaces all the old shims and supports the mud sill directly. This is a top view showing how the floor joists rest on the mud sill and new concrete beam.

The next concrete addition will be sprayed on concrete on the inside of the north and south walls. The prep work for this will be building a grid of rebar and bolting it to the interior of the walls. The concrete will be sprayed over this creating a rigid wall that supports the existing brick wall if and when the big one hits.

Obsessive Restoration

Now that the contractors temporarily own the interior of the hotel, my wife and I have focused our attentions on the wood front of the post office structure next door to the hotel. The idea is to do only conservation to this structure to retain the ghost town feel but while prepping for paint, it’s apparent that some of the wood siding is in need of help.

In this case, the second board from the top is missing a chunk at the bottom edge exposing the interior of the wall.

This is what it’s supposed to look like. You will note that the top of the siding is tapered and the bottom is notched to mate up with the tapered board below.

Since finding vintage siding is difficult, I’ve tried my hand at repairing the damaged boards as best I can.

Here we have the original damaged siding along side a salvaged board which I will splice on. You can see the damaged edge of the siding that I intend to replace.

The first step is to cut the notch onto the salvaged board so that it replicates the damaged edge of the siding.

Then, I cut off the crusty bit of the old siding. I’ve shown this from the back so you can see that I’ve beveled the cut to provide a larger gluing surface. The bevel also stops rain water from intruding into the siding.

The replacement piece is then cut with a matching bevel and glued to the siding with construction adhesive.

Finally the assembly is held together with the world’s oldest clamping device until the adhesive is dry.

Now, if that seems like a lot of trouble, it is and perhaps it’s a good reason to purchase a router table so that I can make my own siding from scratch.

Let The Games Begin!

One more check paid to the county and the permit is issued! The blocking is progressing and the saloon ceiling looks pretty impressive.

The new blocking with the steel straps is pretty massive when compared to the original X bracing which remains as a reminder of the past. As expected, I’m hoping that we never have an earthquake but part of me would really like to see how this works during the big one.

On the exterior, the repointing on the hotel structure has been completed and it looks a heck of a lot better than when we bought the place. You will note that the left parapet has been rebuilt and there is no more hole in the wall below the downspout. Also, the 1950s carport will, eventually, come down and the back of the hotel will be displayed in all its glory again.

The Pony Express building could use some help as well but that is for a future project. The plan is to repoint the stones, rebuild the window and then add a concrete bond beam to the top to hold together the loose bits and prevent rain from seeping into the interior of the wall. With that done, the wall should be good for another 150 years.

Even after the repointing, the hotel walls retain that original wild west look. The interior of the Pony Express yard shows it the most with the remains of the original plaster. I’d like to leave it this way to show the age of the building. The front and the east side wall are currently painted and I will probably repaint them a brick red which is historically correct.


Flushed With Pride

We are so happy. The sun is shining, the new porta potti has been delivered and there are contractors on the horizon.

This means that the permit for the seismic retrofit has been submitted and we’ve been given the green light from the county to start with the prep work. This includes some of the preliminary blocking to reinforce the floor and roof joists that have been carrying the load since 1870. I suspect they need a breather after all that time.

The other big event came this morning when the county reinstalled the missing water meter so that we now have a working hydrant on site.

The old water meter was removed years ago apparently for plumbing leaks in the hotel. I don’t doubt the veracity of this claim; in fact, when I tried to cut some of the old water lines in the basement, the vibration from the saw caused the pipes to break at the joints before I could even cut through the metal. This is a very good reason to wear a hardhat on site and possibly a set of football shoulder pads for good measure.

Of course, the need for my labor on site has decreased since the demo is mostly complete. My current job is writing checks and watching contractors until they get nervous.

Spring Is Here!

Now that the thermometer has reached 77 degrees and the birds are singing in Dayton, it’s hard to imagine that I was scraping snow off the windshield just last week.

The sun is back and work has restarted on the hotel. We’ve selected a contractor to do the seismic retrofit and our mason has returned to finish the repointing.

As for the interior, my wife and I worked all winter to prepare access for the seismic work and in so doing, discovered that the sub floor was in pretty bad shape. It was worn thin in many places and even though it was covered by another layer of wood floor which we removed, it still smelled of dog pee. New plywood was the best answer.

The back wall is still wet from the winter weather which is actually an historic problem for this structure. The building never had downspouts where the water pours off the roof and the rear wall is absolutely soggy. We’ll be fixing that with tin scuppers that the Historic Commission has already approved.

In a previous post, we talked about colors and to add to that, we are now collecting sample materials. In the basement, I found several samples of the original Linoleum.

The black sample was used as a kitchen counter in the post office. It’s a mystery where the green sample was used but I like it and Armstrong has a modern version of it available. Perhaps we’ll find a place for it. It’s interesting to note that real Linoleum similar to these samples is coming back into style. The driving force behind this trend is that it’s a natural green product made of linseed oil and jute backing unlike modern vinyl which is a petroleum based product.

Another product that is making a comeback is encaustic tile. Encaustic tiles are hand made from colored cement that has been cast in patterns. The tiles are thick and heavy but they have a quarter inch thick color layer which can provide hundreds of years of use without wearing through the pattern.

My wife and I have selected this pattern as a candidate for the upstairs living room.

The tiles would be used as a backer for the wood stove. The frame around the stove is a teak door frame from India that I found years ago but never quite figured out how to use. It will work perfectly in this location and provide a bit of Jack London to the interior. In his home in California, Jack used numerous architectural elements gathered on his world travels and this eclectic eccentric look is just the sort of thing my wife and I love.


Snow Day

Well, It’s snowing again so it’s time to stay home and ponder something other than white. In a previous post, I shared a proposed color scheme for the hotel. Perhaps, it is a little bit jarring to the eye but the colors are historically accurate for the 1800s.

As for selecting the palette, I not only wanted to be historically correct, but also wished to let the site suggest the best hues. The green was easy since we have samples of original green paint from the interior. The red and gold; however, have a much more serendipitous origin in the hotel’s back yard.

I’ll make a wild guess that the two stones shown are jasper and they were both found in a rubble heap in the Pony Express yard. I’ve seen other samples of the red stone in a Virginia City rock shop and their origin was listed as Dayton Valley so I’m satisfied that this one is local as well. As for the yellow one, I need to consult my geologist friends but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s local to Dayton too.


Looking For Materials

In anticipation of getting the hotel weather tight again, we are in search of vintage materials to replace what is beyond hope. We currently¬† have four exterior doors that are too badly deteriorated to use but finding replacements has been a challenge. I don’t know of any architectural salvage places in Nevada and even a trip to Urban Ore in Oakland failed to turn up the right kind of door. What the hotel needs is glass top doors like the one shown below.

We’ve seen them on other buildings in Nevada and the California Gold Country so I know they are not rare. With luck, and help from our loyal fans, I’m hoping that there are doors similar that can be obtained for reuse in the hotel.

Also, In the spirit of recycling, we’re looking for old kitchen cabinets that can be refaced. Something bland but sturdy from the pre particle board era would be perfect so if there is anyone out there who is remodeling a kitchen, we may be able to use the cabinets.

Mind the Gap

In our last episode, we were tearing out the first floor pine ceiling to make way for seismic blocking and now, after much dirt in the hair and several trips to the chiropractor, that job is finally complete. The reward for all this hard labor is; of course, more hard labor and in this case, it’s the floor. For the seismic retrofit, the entire perimeter foundation requires concrete and rebar to keep the walls stable when the big one comes. This is all well and good except that it requires removing 24″ of flooring around the entire perimeter foundation.¬† Woof!

It’s not a pretty sight and adds a considerable trip hazard but it does allow us to add to our decorative trash collection in the back yard.

Another benefit is that the smell of ancient dog is slowly diminishing. It seems that many past pooches had been allowed to baste the base boards with their own particular perfume and as we remove the woodwork, their handiwork is headed off to the dump where it will be lost in the greater pong.

Another benefit of pulling up the flooring is that we’ve found lots of stuff in the crawlspace including evidence that my wife and I were not the only ones who’d lost our marbles on this venture.

We’ve not yet found the Mason jar of gold coins that was rumored when we bought the place but we did find the gold wedding band you see above. We also found a mummified cat that we reburied with honors in the back yard. Hope he does not come back to haunt us.


So Much For Wood Ceilings

Some may consider it a shame and to others even sacrilege but in order to prepare for the seismic retrofit, the wood ceilings on the first floor had to come down. This was to make way for 4″x 12″ blocking and steel straps from the front of the building to the back. For good or bad, it’s all about upgrading the structure to modern building codes. Originally, I had planned on saving the tongue and groove pine ceiling planks to reuse but the square nails used to hold them in place also caused the wood to shatter when it was pried loose.

Here you can see the X bracing which was originally installed to keep the floor joists from twisting. These will probably be removed to make way for the seismic blocking which will be much stronger.

You can also see the plumbing stack to the second floor bathroom. This was an addition that was probably added in the 30s which explains why the sewer pipe drops ingloriously right through the saloon. The hotel was originally serviced by a two story outhouse in the back and space for plumbing inside the walls was never provided.

As for the iron sewage pipe, this is a detail that I would like to keep if it’s still in good shape. The reason for this is that iron does not transmit sound anywhere near as much as its modern ABS replacement. Just imagine sitting at the bar with a cocktail and listening to a loud fwoosh of you know what heading for the basement, but I digress.

As for the ceiling, removing it was a nightmare of prying and splintering while attempting to not step off the edge of the scaffold. For my reward, I was nearly clobbered by an artifact which fell out of its hiding place of 80 years under the bathroom floor.

It sports a 1935 Nevada tax stamp and I suspect that it was left under the tub by a very happy plumber since the space was completely sealed up.

Special Request

One of my fans asked me which back balcony option actually made the cut so here is the latest. In the design process I discovered that some of the footings were in conflict with the neighboring building due to the zero lot line. Also, the neighbor’s building had a window that would be blocked by the previous landing location. So, after consulting with the engineer, we decided to flip the stairs to the other end of the balcony which kinda divides the yard but works pretty well aside from that.

Ironically, this balcony never existed like this in the past. There was actually another two story building behind the hotel that shows up on the old insurance maps from the 1890s. The foundation stones of this missing structure still remain in the yard. I suspect that it was wood and it burned down at some point.