Over the past two weeks, Mike Threet, our mason, and his apprentice Ty Guinn, have been hard at work restoring the “flagpole,” or “needle” obelisk. This has involved filling a significant fissure that ran nearly the full height of this artifact, as well as other partial ones, and repairing or replacing the damaged or missing abalone details originally created by Kenneth Kitchen back in the 1940’s when these amazing structures were built.
To repair the fissures, Mike took the unusable bricks from the well house deconstruction (those that are usable will be used intact to do repairs to other fixtures) and ground these into a powder, which he then mixed with his mortar, thereby creating a brick colored fill material that cleverly leveraged the historic materials to ideally to fill these gaps in the obelisk.
With the fissures repaired, Mike began to tackle the significant work to repair the abalone details. As fate would have it, this obelisk had the most missing or damaged abalone detailing of all the historic structures. To repair or replace these, Mike was able to take abalone from detail pieces taken from the well house, pieces donated back to us from our neighbors, the Blitzer’s (Robert Blitzer owns Blitzer Gallery in the Wrigley Building nearby) who had salvaged these during the vandalism of the 1980’s/90’s and as fate would have it, another curious neighbor, Stacey, who happened by and took an interest in our project. She had several small abalone shells she was happy to donate to the cause that really helped out. We also found a treasure trove of broken abalone shells in the ground on the north side of the property that were a fun surprise revealed while we were grading the property. These sources gave Mike plenty of raw materials to work with to recreate all of the beautiful detailing of the obelisk.
To tackle this work, Mike spent time determining how to replicate Kenneth Kitchen’s unique mortaring techniques. Mike managed to worked out perfectly how to get the color and technique of Kenneth’s mortaring, as well as developing the forms to recreate the abalone detail pieces to look just like Kenneth’s original work, and as you will see in the pictures the new abalone detailing can not be differentiated from the original pieces that remained intact! We are truly in complete awe of Mike and his excellent skills! The last step to finishing the work on the obelisk was to apply a clear sealant to the abalone detailing that will not only protect these features from future sun and weather damage, but will also help it to perpetually shine in all its rainbow glory.
This week also saw Mike and Ty doing further cleaning of the Yogi Temple to prepare for the installation of the replacement windows and doors, which will happen over the next couple of weeks, and Mike continued to repair the remaining portions of the corners of the well house, where again his ability to replicate Kenneth’s mortaring techniques lent itself to blending his repair work seamlessly side by side with the original mortar work.
The team also was able to test extracting whole sections of the historic wall that we will be moving from the back north east section of the property to replace the missing sections at the front of the property. The test run was a success, thereby solidifying the method by which we will salvage these artifacts. The team will pull the sections in the best condition in the coming weeks and store these for future placement at the front of the property later in the project. Once all of the historic wall sections along the back and north sides of the property have been extracted, Taylor’s team will be tackling finishing the horizontal wood fence along those sections of the perimeter of the property. We are excited to see this work completed soon.
With the steel exoskeleton intact, fissures repaired and abalone detailing restored and sealed, we are now set to remove the scaffolding next week and place a protective wooden barrier around the base for the duration of our construction project. The completion of this piece of our restoration work is a significant step in our project and we extend many thanks to our gracious neighbors for their interest and care to donate abalone to help us out, and a huge round of applause to Mike and Ty for their diligent work and bravery spending so much time up on the scaffolding to complete all of this amazing work!
Lastly, the past two weeks have seen the grading and compaction team diligently doing a fantastic job of preparing the south side of the property for foundation work for our garage/ADU and new home. This involved tedious work where every 6″ of compaction work required testing by the city to ensure we were meeting the necessary guidelines for soil compaction to support our new structures . In the end, we past all of our tests with flying colors (very solid ground we are standing on!) and next week Taylor’s team and the foundation team will begin the heavy work of phasing in the many elements of work required to lay down the foundations. So exciting to see this all coming to life!
Many thanks to all of the crew members, Taylor, Mike and Ty and all of our supportive neighbors. We are truly ever grateful.
ps: be sure to click on the pictures to see them full size and read the captions 😉