While we are waiting for the structural engineer to figure out how much concrete to add to the hotel, I’ll take a moment for some back story and flagrant self aggrandizement.
My fascination with the Union is a mix of several background interests that I’ve had since I was a child. The most important being interests in antiquities, architecture and reuse of materials. This inspired many possibilities including building a home from scratch.
This is one of numerous house ideas that I’ve toyed with over the years. This particular design uses shipping containers as the structural component with the idea that once the sheathing and dry wall goes on, it would be impossible to tell it apart from a normal stick built house. I’ve toyed with other concepts as well such as rammed earth and straw bale construction.
The Union; however, has provided a suitable shell for my passions so there is no reason to start from scratch anymore. The Union’s architecture, both interior and exterior, is aesthetically pleasing to my taste and the building provides enough room for my other endeavors as well.
As for the other endeavors, I’m an artist of scattered interests. In other words, I try everything that I can. I started by learning wood craft from my father and went on to glass, ceramics and metal. Mix that with the interest in recycled materials, and it makes for a fun menagerie of creations.
This box was made of old book shelves and salvaged hardware.
The two lamps are assembled out of numerous broken fixtures that I combined to make whole again. The stove; however, was just a straight restoration so I take no credit for the beautiful design. My job was to remove a lot of rust and apply liberal coats of Rutland Stove Polish. Oh, and the mica windows are new as well.
One of the early items on the to do list is to take stock of existing elements that can be reused. The most obvious one is the bar with the drawback being that only half of it remains.
The other half was left outside until it was a lump of dry rot and beyond salvage. The trick now is to use the remaining half in a way that looks correct and not contrived out of scraps. To start, I’ve created a 3D model to experiment with different design options.
Currently, the bar is pushed into the left rear corner of the saloon which is probably not the original location. It seems like it was originally parallel to the east saloon wall but to make that look right, I would need to recreate the missing half of the bar which would be difficult and expensive.
Today we did a little bit of testing to see how bad the plaster was upstairs and got carried away in the process. The plaster is so soft that it just crumbles away and it seems like the only thing holding it together is the wallpaper.
By the way, those studs actually measure 2″ x 4″ and the lath was held in place with square nails.
One of the cleanup chores that has been a real pain is all of the paint that came with the Hotel. Many of the cans were partially dried out and others had never been opened but had gone through freezing temperatures last winter which renders it unusable. Since the dump won’t take wet paint we are drying everything out so it can be disposed of properly.
At least it makes for a pretty picture.
Now that we’ve moved out most of the debris and the structural engineer is deciding how to make the masonry earthquake resistant, it’s time to start designing again. Based on historically available colors, I’ve started experimenting with the hotel exterior. Note that having 3D modeling software is a big advantage for daydreamers like me.
I’ve also been toying with the saloon interior.
Compared to what it is today, it will be a vast improvement with very little change to the existing structure.
Now that the second 30 yard tip is full, the back yard is looking better. Here are some before and after shots.
All that work, however, was not without its rewards. Each rake full of debris pulled up more clues to the past. There was plenty of new trash to throw one off the scent but hidden in the dust were artifacts that spurred curiosity.
There were other signs of the past as well. Here we have a row of foundation stones from a long lost outbuilding. Since this is just a straight row of stones with no corners, I suspect that there is another row of stones running parallel to it. Wood timbers would have been set on top of these with floor joists strung across them.
It’s June 25th and downtown Dayton is celebrating Oodles of Noodles which is a salute to the town’s Chinese and Italian heritage and a good reason to take a break from filling dumpsters. While roaming around all the booths on Pike street, my wife and I were well received by all the neighbors who told us how happy they are with our efforts to clean up and restore the Union. We also heard a bit of town gossip and many stories about past residents, some alive, some dead and some who remain in ghost form. It’s just amazing how warm and friendly people are in this town.
I’d thought that a 30 yard dumpster would suffice but that was not to be the case. Two refrigerators, two sofas, six mattress sets, several desks, numerous nightstands and a lot of assorted junk later and the tip was overflowing.
As soon as we got the back yard cleared, more trash from the interior filled the void. This particular heap of furniture was great fun because it required heaving these brocade monsters from the second floor balcony.
At least some of the rooms are looking and smelling better. This room had two dog stained carpets which were providing the sweet scent of Ode de Pooch. Now that they’re gone, the fug is receding.
In our digging, we also found many treasures including these two pixies that would be well suited for a Stephen King movie.
Stay tuned for the next chapter where we have high and futile hopes that a second 30 yard dumpster will have the last of the junk cleared.
We knew that there was a lot of cleanup to do but after three pickup truck loads to the dump, we decided to rent a 30 yard skip. It was apparent that a past tenant of the place was a collector of many many items of dubious value. There were dozens of bags full of household garbage in the yard that were just decomposing slowly and a least 100 bags of used clothing.
In between flurries of cleaning, I also started measuring the building so I can produce accurate floor plans and a shopping list of parts that are missing. There are several missing door locks and a few doors as well that need to be sourced locally. Most of the door knobs are missing as well but I have a collection of fancy Victorian brass knobs that will work fine.
As for the measuring, I did that myself with the building staring at me as if it wanted to ask what I was up to. It felt a little creepy with the wind blowing through the open windows and some of the doors closing with a slam from the movement of air. Oh, and there are swallows living in the bathroom light fixture to add a little chirping music. I sure hope the creepiness clears up as we redo the interior. We do have reports that a neighborhood three year old was heard to say “Bad house” and “That’s where the ghosts live.”
This is the beginning of an adventure into the past. It is not for the feint of heart; in fact, the interior is downright scary. My wife and I intend to renovate this hotel and make it our home with as much old west charm as we can keep. Since it’s an historically listed building, the exterior has to remain as original as possible. The interior can be completely changed by code but we want to keep the original layout intact as much as possible.
This is the saloon looking out toward Main St. Before renovation starts, all the trash and abandoned belongings from the last tenants have to be removed.
The master suite upstairs is in serious need of repair with water damage and up to five layers of wallpaper on top of decaying plaster. This is typical of the entire second floor.
The back yard is a jungle of junk.
This photo is of Charlie Gruber’s hearse at his funeral. He owned the Union until his death in 1886.