A match grant is helping building owners renovate and restore the historical business district in downtown Washington Court House.
The Marsden Chimney and Masonry Repair company was seen Tuesday working on the facade of a brick building located on South Main Street in the historical district.
“We’re trying to restore the faces of these older buildings,” said employee Kevin Butts. “A lot of the brick lasts 100 years but the mortar, it doesn’t last that long, so what happens is it tends to fall out and then you get big holes in the front. We’re trying to get them back somewhat to the originality.”
Improving the exterior of downtown historic buildings is something the City of Washington Court House is enforcing through the building maintenance code. The maintenance code went into effect July 1 and the city has begun to explore which exteriors of downtown historic buildings need to be addressed. City Manager Joe Denen said the match grant can help to off-set maintenance costs for the building owners.
“We’re happy to do that in cooperation with the building owners,” said Denen. “It’s a nice thing to invest in the buildings downtown.”
Marsden Chimney and Masonry Repair, based in Jamestown, specializes in historic building restoration. Once it completes work on the mortar and bricks, it will apply a water sealant that will last for up to 12 years, said Butts.
“We are a fourth generation company and we have been doing this our whole lives. There’s not much we can’t do when it comes to brick and stone work and restoration,” said Butts.
The company was called by Steve Pond, the building’s owner. Pond purchased the building in 1990. Today there are two offices on the lower floor and studio apartments upstairs. Pond has used the match grant over the years to keep up with maintenance and upgrades to the building.
“It’s nice because they match what you pay. I did the heating and cooling, some roof work, the brick work, and I’m doing the awnings. The other awnings were ripped and in bad shape,” said Pond. “It’s an investment in the property. Plus, you want it to look good. You keep it up and it makes the downtown look cleaner and sharper. Having that grant just gives you the incentive to keep up. Hopefully we have more people down here who have that cash flow. If you’re remodeling your kitchen and someone said, ‘If you do a nice job and you do it right I’ll give you 50 percent to remodel your own kitchen,’ would you do that? To me it’s a no-brainer when someone is paying you.”
Pond said it takes a lot of money to keep the old buildings up and running, however.
“It seems like there’s always something. I’ve put a lot of money into that building in the past 25 years,” said Pond, “but I have [tenants] and so it’s a little easier to do that when you have money coming in. People downtown who have those buildings that are vacant, they have a hard time justifying that but if they look long-term, get it fixed up, get somebody in there, they can make their money back. Not everybody has that energy. It takes a lot of energy to do that.”
Pond said one incentive to improving the downtown historical buildings is to develop small communities where people want to stay in their hometowns to enjoy local dining and shopping.
“But they want something nice and classy and don’t want to walk into a dump. I think other people would like to come here for that, too. People want something cute and quaint,” said Pond. “I think the business owners, everybody, needs to step up and take advantage of the program because it might not be here again.”
Butts said Marsden Chimney and Masonry Repair would like to be more involved in helping the community members to restore their buildings and said some of the downtown buildings are “in dire need of some repairs.”
“We’d like to take a look at anybody who is interested in having restoration work done on their buildings. We have bigger crews, we have a company that comes in and sets up scaffolding for us if we need it,” said Butts.
Stay with the Record-Herald for more stories on the match grant and how other people are using it to improve the community.
Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton