West’s Block Building Transformed
into the Architectural Heritage Center
After five years of fundraising and careful planning, the Bosco-Milligan Foundation, with Robertson, Hay & Wallace as general contractor, began the Phase I restoration work in 1994 on the West’s Block Building. The plans, drawn by William J. Hawkins, FAIA, were to restore the original “storefront” – the first floor of the Grand Avenue façade. Cast iron from another building which had been applied by Bosco & Milligan was removed, and other alteration materials were stripped away.
With the work well underway, a significant challenge arose: the wooden horizontal beam behind the belt cornice required replacement due to major dry rot. However, contemporary building codes prohibited the use of wood for this purpose and requiring a steel replacement. No problem…except that all of the brick on the second story of the façade sat directly on top of the beam. Back to the drawing board. The BMF board and staff decided to tackle the entire façade, and because scaffolding was needed, it made sense to go all the way to the top of the building, including the roof cornice. The project, estimated to cost $150,000, would ultimately cost $291,279, of which 23% was contributed in labor, materials, and services.
In 1989, architect Al Staehli was engaged to undertake a rigorous analysis of the multiple layers of paint on the building’s exterior. A microscopic analysis determined the first paint colors, under nearly a dozen layers of colors in some areas. The woodwork was no problem. Because the original soft brick had been painted so many times, the project team knew that removing all of that paint to return to original red brick would badly damage the face, and never result in a clean surface. Repainting the brick in red appeared to be the best solution.