Historic building gets renewed lease on life
Masonry case study
By Gary Henry
Roaring ‘20s-era Dalton Apartments in Gary, Ind., has come back from the edge of ruin, thanks to a developer who never lost heart, a thorough interior rehab, and a skilled exterior repair and restoration cleaning.
Dalton Apartments actually is two buildings joined by a common wall, the seven-story “Tower” (1928) and the three-story “Modern” (1926). Gary-based developer Harrington Properties planned to revive Dalton Apartments for 1999 occupancy, but those plans came to fruition.
Next up, in 2003, Illinois developer Shawn Loyden of Gary Progress Development saw the potential in the building’s downtown location, near a commuter railway station and other public transport, as well as the city’s new baseball stadium.
The CircumstancesThe ins and outs of business had the project alternating between being green lit and red lit. The recent recession didn’t help either. And, despite being old, dirty and abandoned, Dalton Apartments is entered in the National Historic Register, which meant all the people, products and procedures involved had to be approved.
“We hung in there,” Loyden says, adding that, in 2010, he was rewarded with some light at the end of the tunnel, as general contractor Sterling Construction Corp. in Mishawaka, Ind., got to work. They tapped Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration out of Griffith, Ind., a company that also was experienced with historic buildings, to clean the grimy exterior.
The Midwest crew encountered moderate-to-severe carbon staining on the building’s red brick, from 70 to 80 years of exposure to smoke from Gary’s once-prolific steel mills, according to Midwest’s project manager, Tom Skertich. The mortar joints needed to be tuckpointed. The limestone trim crawled with light-to-heavy concentrations of biological growth. Cracks and stains defaced the elegant terra cotta ornamentation, at least where chunks hadn’t fallen away already.
Midwest went to work on Dalton Apartments in September. The first task was an overall restoration cleaning. Though the building needed tuckpointing and terra cotta repairs, it had to be cleaned first, so the contaminants wouldn’t interfere with the repairs.
At least that was the case on the north, east and west elevations, which only needed limited work. The south elevation was in such dire need that the 100 percent tuckpointing effort had to be the first priority, grimy walls or no grimy walls.
Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration began with the north wall, where a decades-old combination of carbon soiling and biological growth had blackened the masonry more profoundly than any of the other elevations.
“From the looks of it, I doubt the north wall ever saw the sun,” says Skertich.
The restoration techs wiped the venerable brick free of carbon soiling with Sure Klean Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner. The product is made specifically to do battle with the accumulated layers of black carbon that often shroud the historic buildings of the urban industrial Midwest and Northeast.
Their procedure was simple, says Skertich.
Working in 10- X 30-foot drops, the techs soaked down the wall with fresh water. They low-pressure sprayed the wall with Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner, and gave it a few minutes to de-bond the black mantle. Soft scrubbing with soft-bristle brushes helped hasten the unwelcome coating’s exit, as gentle pressure-washing rinsed it away for capture, treatment and disposal.
The building’s limestone trim, protected by tape and plastic from the cleaner’s acidic components, got washed with the Sure Klean 766 Prewash and Afterwash system, made specifically for cleaning sensitive limestone, marble and travertine.
The alkaline 766 Prewash restored the limestone’s pristine appearance. A follow-up cleaning with Sure Klean Limestone Afterwash added a further cleaning effect to the trim, while neutralizing any leftover alkalinity from the Prewash.
With the north wall cleaned, the crew began tuckpointing operations on selected areas. They also attacked the dirty east and west elevations. But, since they weren’t as heavily soiled as the north wall, the techs used the milder, though still tough, Sure Klean Restoration Cleaner, using similar procedures as on the north wall.
Following the tuckpointing, they removed excess mortar and clarified the mortar joints with Sure Klean 600. The classic, new-construction masonry cleaner also dissolved excess mortar that had been left on the building from a previous tuckpointing attempt in 2008 that hadn’t panned out, Skertich says. They cleaned the old-fashioned way, he says, with buckets and bushes.
The cleaned, though still cracked and broken, terra cotta got some attention too, in the form of repairs with Jahn M70 and M90 Restoration Mortars.
Midwest wrapped up their work on the building in December as good weather days became ever scarcer. They’d cleaned and repaired three sides but had to wait for Spring to tackle the south elevation.
With the first hint of improving weather in March, the technicians were back on the job. The new-construction cleaning crew followed the masons on the south elevation, removing excess mortar, both new and old. The restoration cleaners followed them.
In two weeks, they had finished cleaning and repairs. During the course of the project, the Midwest crew had turned back the hands of time on about 90,000 square feet of historic masonry, including roughly 10,000 square feet of tuckpointing and repair.
Midwest also treated the development with Sure Klean Weatherseal Siloxane PD (Predilute), a penetrating water repellent. Siloxane PD keeps water from soaking in and creating the very problems Midwest just spent months reversing.
Dalton Apartments also got graffiti protection with Sure Klean Weatherseal Blok Guard & Graffiti Control II, a water-based, environmentally responsible anti-graffiti shield.
Meanwhile, work continues inside. The finished property will boast 57 newly remodeled apartments and about 7,547 square feet of commercial space and off-street parking. Amenities include wiring for high-speed internet access, energy-efficient windows and doors, community center, exercise center and meeting center.
The development, which Loyden says is set for a grand opening in September or sooner, will offer both affordable housing and some market-rate units.
With the restoration and rehab, the octogenarian Dalton Apartments have received on new lease on life. How long is that lease good for?
“No one ever really knows the answer to that question,” says Skertich. “With proper care and maintenance, I’d say indefinitely.”
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Gary Henry is a business communication specialist with PROSOCO, a national manufacturer of products for cleaning, protecting and maintaining masonry, concrete and stone. For more information, contact Gary Henry at 785-830-7343, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Midwest Pressure Washing.