Project Update 1
November 19, 2010
Prior to the construction crews and students descending onto the Willowbank landscape, an archaeological dig was led by David Robertson of Archaeological Services Inc., to determine whether anything significant would be disturbed by the wall project. It was concluded that the soil had been disturbed a number of times due to prior landscaping and construction projects and there were many artifacts uncovered but all were mixed together, making it hard to separate out any specific events. There was evidence that there may have been a specific event revolving around the replacement of chimney bricks as one layer of soil held a large quantity of scorched fragments of handmade brick. Once the trenches were dug for the wall, drainage tiles were discovered that had been installed to replace an earlier cistern and eavestrough system, that had also been found near the worksite. The drainage tiles will remain in place, as they continue to do the job.
Since September, Mark Shoalts of Shoalts Bros. Construction and his crew have co-ordinated a metal bracing system, as well as excavating a trench allowing access to the foundation of the two walls. They have also ensured a continued dry and warm environment by setting up tarps on both walls. The hope for the winter is that it will be relatively warm and that lots of insulating snow will fall, as the temperature within the tarped area should remain within the range of 40°F-85°F.
In October, a group of stonemasons, began work on the actual walls. Everyday they can be found beneath the tarps “in the trenches” repointing the mortar and replacing any stones in poor condition. As of the end of October, the foundation was well underway and almost completed. Work progresses steadily, as the masons work on 2’X4’ areas. The masons are working in a checkerboard pattern in sections that allows each mortared area to dry for the necessary 3-5 days.
Replacement stones of Whirlpool sandstone have been donated from the quarry that would have been the original quarry for Willowbank when it was first built in the 1830s. Identified by Bob Watson, a geologist and Willowbank instructor, the original quarry is located off of York Road, and the owner of the land is generously donating any stones that had already been quarried and remained on site. Everyone involved in the project (including the students) are excited to see that the historical integrity of the materials will be retained and that the stone will be properly matched. It is also worth mentioning that the use of locally sourced material while being historically accurate is also helping in the reduction of the ecological footprint of the project. Even the lime mortar is being mixed with locally sourced sand from the Fonthill area. All of this continuing progress, can be attributed to a well run worksite and Willowbank graduate Emily Kszan, heritage consultant, is keeping everything on track. From sectioned drawings of the walls at four foot intervals (showing the actual devastating proof of the bulges’ sometimes 9 inch belly!) to the organization of materials and labour (including arguments over every problematic stone), Emily’s management of the site is a testament to the great hands-on education she received as a Willowbank student. We’d also like to mention the great consultants that we’ve had on the project, including John Silburn, structural engineer, who has been integral in planning the project as well as designing the bracing system; Keith Blades, conservation consultant, and Kevin Carter, conservation stone mason, who both worked on the mortar analysis for the wall, and of course, Julian Smith, conservation architect, who, though incredibly busy and jet-setting all over the world, has continued to head up the project.