Wineka column: Crew works to repair window frames at Salisbury Depot
SALISBURY — For now, there are three sides to the Salisbury depot’s tower.
The learning side.
The applying side.
The refining side.
Contractor Alfred C. Wilson and his righthand man, Dan Barkley, already have learned a lot about repairing the windows on the north side of the tower.
They will apply that knowledge on the west side (facing Depot Street) and, by the time they tackle the south side, it will be a piece of cake — just tweaks in the process here and there.
This highly vertical, inside-out job is more about repairing the frames around the 30 tower windows than fixing the windows themselves.
The wood frames are rotting in many places, leaving holes and sill pieces literally dangling over the street.
“We call that the hanging chad up there,” Dan Barkley says, pointing to a chunk of wood outside a west-side window.
It looks as though it could fall to the pavement any minute.
The Robertson Foundation has provided a $25,000 grant toward the work, whose final cost is expected to run between $40,000 and $60,000, depending on any “surprises” the contractor might find, says Doug Black, property manager for the depot’s owner, Historic Salisbury Foundation.
“It’s absolutely necessary for the health of the building,” Black says, “and it is a cool project.”
Wilson and Barkley are working from the interior of the tower, rather than bringing in expensive equipment to go up and down the tower from the street outside.
They also didn’t want to take the chance of damaging the fragile tile roof on the tower’s north and south sides.
One of the first orders of business was to build permanent platforms inside — scaffolding, if you will, that will stay up to make future maintenance on the windows easier.
One of the last things the contractor will do is paint these structures a flat black, so the framework will disappear into the darkness of the tower and not be seen from the outside.
Wilson and Barkley remove the whole window sashes, bringing them back to life with new paint and reglazing where necessary.
Plywood is temporarily installed over the openings.
But the tower windows aren’t really the problem. The green, exterior framing around them is.
Wilson is replacing that wood with newly milled, primed and painted mahogany before the rejuvenated sashes go back in.
Gary Curlee, of C&R Millwork and Lumber Inc. of Gold Hill, is building the new frames.
Since the depot’s total restoration in the early 1990s, the tower has pretty much been neglected, except for an employee’s climbing up here every Christmas season to put up or take down a holiday wreath.
When you think about it, Wilson says, most restoration projects are simply addressing deferred maintenance.
Black says the foundation probably should have someone climbing up to the tower every month and looking for signs of trouble.
In their painting, Wilson and Barkley are taking pains to back-prime, end-prime and, when they cut pieces to fit, prime again.
“All the wood is sealed,” Wilson says. “It should be something all carpenters do.”
Black had a crew of foundation volunteers work a month in cleaning out the tower and putting down a new plywood floor that can better hold the weight of the permanent maintenance structures.
Getting up to the tower is not simple.
Wilson, Barkley and Black are using an extension ladder at the back of the old ticket office that goes to a first tower level.
An uneven, but durable ladder made of Douglas fir — thought to be original to the 1908 depot — is used to reach the main tower level, the base of operations for Wilson and Barkley.
A permanent metal ladder goes even higher into the top of the tower, which Black says serves mostly as a decorative cap.
Barkley and Wilson say it could have been used in earlier days to signal trains or identify trains coming into the station.
The tower project probably will take most of June to accomplish.
“It’s an interesting job,” Wilson says.
An inside-out one at that.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@ salisburypost.com.