Scaffolding is up and repair work has started at 121 West Main Street, directly east of the new Patrick O’Shea’s. Several tipsters wrote in to report activity at the building adjacent to the much contested Iron Quarter site. With work ongoing at the Whiskey Row Lofts and construction complete at Patrick O’Shea’s, 121 West Main represents the last of the non-Iron Quarter buildings to be fixed-up.
121 West Main Street is unique on the block as its cornice stands taller than surrounding structures and its cladding material, while still cast-iron at its base, is comprised of sandstone instead of brick or limestone. Sandstone was a common building material in the 19th century as it was inexpensive and soft allowing for easy carving.
That softness often leads to its downfall, however, as with the crumbling facade on Main Street. The reddish sandstone veneer on 121 West Main is similar to the many brownstones found along the east coast and presents similar repair problems. One common solution is to patch the decaying stone with a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and mortar coloring. Applying such a veneer coat to the sandstone can restore the original look of a structure.
If you look closely at the 121 West Main’s upper floors, you can begin to notice where the facade has been repaired in the past with a similar patching compound (see photos below). It’s easy to spot as the carved detailing of the repair tends to be more clumsy and coarse than the original carving. You can also see the extent of erosion that’s already taken place on the original stone.
Now, with scaffolding covering the entire Main Street facade, it appears crews are undertaking a more extensive repair. Notice in the top photo where the grey color shows through the scaffolding to determine where work has already started. I haven’t been able to inspect the building personally, but such a repair likely would involve scraping away previous veneer patching and providing a textured cement undercoat over which a new veneer can be applied.
For more information on sandstone and brownstone facade repair, check out this article from the Old House Journal.
Now that the Whiskey Row Block has been declared a Local Landmark, any non-repair based changes must be approved by the Metro Landmarks Commission, so we’ll see what happens as the project plays out. We couldn’t get in touch with the building’s owner by the time of writing.
A scaffolding permit issued by the city does stipulate that the sidewalk be cleared by October 7 in time for the grand opening at the arena on the 10th. (You know, you wouldn’t want anything ugly to be a sore thumb on that block…)
A separate building permit was reissued for interior work (not governed by the structure’s Landmark status) on the five-story building. That permit indicates that new stairwells and an elevator shaft are being added along with new bathrooms on the first through fourth floors. General fire protection including sprinklers throughout and a fire wall & door separating the Washington Street level garage from the main building are also planned. Repairs are estimated to cost about $500,000.
There’s no word on any tenants that may take space in the building, but with all the development activity going on in the area surrounding the arena, there’s sure to an interesting opportunity in the future. For now, though, it’s great to see repair work started on the building.