RICHMOND — When the plywood started coming off the windows the atmosphere in the historic Hathorn Block started to change.

For years, the brick building overlooking the Kennebec River presented a blighted face to the world with plywood covering the windows, bracing timbers holding the brick walls in place and pigeons slipping in and out at will.

“Once we started to open up the windows and let the light in, it started to feel better,” Makoto Sato said. Sato is one of the carpenters who has been working at the building, framing up support walls, laying boards for floors and clearing out rubbish and debris and investigating the structural past of the building, including where fires have charred some of the interior timber framing.

Bit by bit, at the hands of Sato and others, the historic Hathorn Block is shedding the indignities of time and wear. Master mason Richard Irons and his crew have repaired the brickwork. The scaffolding they were using is due to come down soon, and Sato and his co-workers will remove the bracing timbers.

If Fossel Preservation Partners keeps the project on track, the renovation of the Hathorn Block is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the task list is filled with projects both large and small.

“The carpenters are doing the drip edge this week,” Les Fossel, a principle in Fossel Preservation Partners, said last week. Water had been getting in along the edges of the brick cornices at the roof line and that was a concern. Extending the drip edge will keep water out of the brick work, he said.

The braces can come down because the south-facing brick facade has been reconnected to the interior walls. Inspection of the building’s south face showed that the iron fasteners holding the outside brick wall to the interior walls had rusted. Fossel said the engineer’s report called for installing 60 to 66 new fasteners to join the walls together.

“We put in 100 of them with all the work done from the inside,” he said.

Fossel Preservation Partners brings together the expertise of Fossel, architect David Landmann, John Hochstein and project manager Fred Gumkowski to guide the project to completion. The partners bought the building in October, and the rehabilitation work started a month later.

“The bureaucracy of these things always slows things down,” said Fossel, a former Republican state representative, “but that’s what comes when you use other people’s money.”

The project is being funded through a mix of loans, grants and tax credits.

When the renovations are completed, the 14,000-square-foot building will house a mix of commercial and residential spaces, much as it did when it was first opened in 1850.

Richmond brothers Jefferson and Joseph Jackson Hathorn built what at the time was the largest building in Richmond. It was essentially two buildings under one roof with a dividing wall separating it into north and south units. The lower floors have been used as warehouse space, a bank and a series of grocers’ shops.

Fossel said he’s already received inquiries about the planned apartments, but he’s unable to give commitments because the layouts haven’t been finalized.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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