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.

New Year Chill

As many of you have noticed, I have not been updating the blog during the holidays. That’s because it’s cold and I don’t get very inspired when my tootsies are freezing. last week, we had a daytime low of 18 degrees and inside the hotel, it seemed just a bit colder. One might think that warmer weather would be welcome but one must also be careful about what one wishes for.

The weather today was a lot warmer but it came with an unusual heavy rain which was not helpful at all. I didn’t go on the roof to verify but what looks to have happened is that the rain melted the snow up there very quickly and the resulting water was held in place by ice dams. What happened next was an indoor rainstorm.

Most of it ended up on the staircase where it refroze making the journey upstairs much more challenging.

The floor boards are slated for replacement so I’m not too worried about the water stains. Dog only knows that this has probably happened before. What does concern me; however, is water on the millwork. Here you can see where water has dripped on this door and then frozen.

All is not doom and gloom though. The drips missed the piano by a couple of feet and only a little got on the bar which I cleaned up with a rag.

Deck the Walls

As we continue the careful demolition of the interior, it’s become apparent that many of the wall surfaces require replacement to satisfy the new building codes and seismic retrofits. Few of the existing walls were covered in modern drywall. Most of it was a mixture of plaster on lath, ¼” thick plywood, particleboard and, in some cases, ¾” thick pine walls with no framing studs at all. In addition, some of the framing methods were rather creative. As a case in point, some door frames were only held in place by the trim with no other method of securing them to the stud wall thus leading to catching both door and jamb as they fell out of the wall when the last bit of casing was removed. Granted this was a lot easier than sawing through nails and shims but it warranted a certain amount of vigilance to avoid being squished like a bug.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that all the lath and plaster has already been removed upstairs. This material was rather easy after 150 years of moisture. The plaster was just falling off the walls and the lath was only held to the studs with tacks so it came down with little effort. The challenge was that it made a huge mess on the floor which obstructed further work. But, before the plaster could be shoveled up, the lath had to be carefully picked out of the mess. Imagine trying to scoop sugar with a teaspoon when the sugar is under a pile of a thousand chopsticks. Once we figured this out, my wife and I changed our approach and peeled the plaster off first, shoveled it up and then pulled the lath off the wall as a second step. It was still a mess but much more manageable.

As for removing drywall, it’s relatively easy since it breaks up into manageable chunks. If you’re lucky, or possibly unlucky, some of the drywall will come off the studs in huge chunks with little effort. At one point, I was trying to figure out how to remove a huge sheet of drywall on the stairwell ceiling. It was water damaged so it had to come down but being above the stairwell posed the problem of how to set up the ladder to get to such a high place. At that point, my wife gave it a tentative prod with a long crowbar and the whole thing came down with a dramatic crash missing me by inches. Problem solved.

The hardest wall covering to remove is the 1920s vintage plywood. It was used on all the walls in the dining room and while it is quite easy to clean up after, it’s a real pill to remove from the studs. The stuff is springy and it does not break up so it has to be removed in entire sheets with dozens of nails. After quite a bit of prying around each edge, the sheet requires a really good heave to break it loose. The reward for this is a free flying chunk of plywood while the ladder is illustrating the theory that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” I’ll be so glad when all the plywood is down.



Free Stuff!

I’ve spent the last week getting ready for demo work on the first floor. We’ve gotten the old bar up on furniture dollies so we can move it out of harms way and the piano has its own wheels so it’s good to go. There are; however, more items in the way that I can offer to my honored readers. We’ve got several old fashioned bed springs, two vintage record players, a sewing machine and Edna McDiarmid’s old TV set.


I hate to haul these to the dump so they are free for the taking or, if you feel inclined, we will accept a donation to the building fund. Just respond to this post and we can arrange a pickup.

Clearing The Jungle

It was a sad day today as we said farewell to the Black Locust trees behind the hotel and in the Pony Express yard. All of them were either dead from neglect or mostly dead and the larger ones were threatening the walls. As you probably remember, the yard was pretty wild when we bought the place.

Yard 01

The trees were putting out a few leaves but most of the greenery was on the suckers and the trunks were quite barren.


Now, the back of the hotel is clear.


And the four trees in the Pony Express yard are gone as well.

It’s interesting to note that Black Locust trees are not native to Nevada. They were imported because their wood has excellent rot resistance and serves well as mine timbers. As an ornamental, though, they’re not so good with erratic brittle limbs and a sticky sap that rains in mists over everything  nearby.

As for the Black Locusts of the hotel, counting the rings gives us a clue to their history. It appears that the trees in the Pony Express yard started in the early forties while the ones behind the hotel were about 20 years younger. From what I can ascertain, the hotel passed out of the Gruber family around 1940 and was purchased by Edna McDiarmid in 1950. Nobody seems to know who owned the hotel in the 40s but my guess is that the trees in the Pony Express yard started as volunteer seedlings somewhere in that ten year span and the trees behind the hotel may have been seedlings from the originals in the Pony Express yard.

All history aside, we now have room to work and space to plant new trees of our choice with Nevada native trees being our first choice.