This has definitely been an interesting and challenging year. Of course, we are no stranger to challenges, considering that we are nearing the end of our 5th year of work and progress towards the ultimate renovation of Jasper School and Bauman Hall. We have had a much harder time fundraising, of course, but we continue to move ahead and try to adapt.
In the beginning of last year we were successful in raising several thousand dollars in order to install security cameras and motion sensor lights around the building to put a stop to any future vandalism attempts after the theft of pipes and wiring and damage to our electrical boxes. We also raised enough for three dehumidifiers to put in the basement, which dropped the humidity from around 75% to 55-60%, critical for reducing any potential mold or mortar issues and deterioration of plaster. Due to the Covid Pandemic, we had to cancel all the spring and summer events, which would normally net us around $5,000-$8,000.
In October, we decided to try a new kind of fundraiser after the summer Quartzsiter Days festivities were cancelled, and we had a Drive Thru Dinner. Thanks to the generosity of the Pipestone County Pork Producers’ donation of pulled pork, and the delicious buns from the Edgerton Bakery, we added potato salad, baked beans and a cookie. We received a stimulus card from Thrivent Financial to purchase all the supplies. We put the fundraiser together quickly and were glad we were able to raise over $1,200 in two hours. This was a really important number because we have some patching to do on the Girls Locker Room roof, which was caving in when we purchased the building in 2015. Terry Skyberg had put up supports then, and when we took ownership, one of the first things we did was to patch that roof to stop the leaking. Recently, we have been noticing MUCH more water coming in during rains, and while a locker room is not a terrible place for water to be, as it can flow down shower drains, we knew the roof patch was no good anymore. The estimate for the rubber membrane and sealant needed to patch the roof was about $1,000.
We had our volunteers patch it this fall and we hope we can prevent more water in the building this spring during the thaw. This will really help us keep the conditions in the building from declining, and every issue we prevent means less expense in the renovation.
One of the other successful projects this year was another grant request to the Minnesota State Historical Society, $53,300 to hire an architect and structural engineer to draw up construction plans and drawings for the needed repairs for Bauman Hall that were identified in last year’s Conditions Assessment. LHB, Inc in Minneapolis created this vital planning document that is the roadmap for all renovation needs and maintenance for this building according to methods that will preserve its historic integrity. The priority of the Construction Drawings is going to be a Shoring Design that will stabilize the failing area on the east wall. This is critical to ensure the safety of the public, as well as to reduce the amount of damage done to the building. We submitted the grant request in July, and in September we watched the livestream meeting of the Historic Resource Advisory Council as they voted to approve funding our grant! This means LHB, Inc was able to get started in November on the shoring engineering design, just in the nick of time. We were so encouraged to hear so many positive comments from several grant reviewers, who mentioned on the live-stream how important the beautiful quartzite architecture is, how much they enjoy driving through and visiting Jasper, and how happy they are that the community has responded so strongly with support for our work to improve the community. It is so rewarding to have others notice the hard work, determination and spirit of our community. And the level of support and funds we are able to have the community give, also makes it more likely that our grant requests will be funded, since they use the level of community investment to help them choose the most worthwhile projects that are likely to survive long term.
For the last 6 months, we have been monitoring the condition at Bauman Hall very closely, after noticing very small chunks of mortar falling from the caved area on the second floor. We knew that we needed that shoring plan very soon. Around Thanksgiving, about a dozen stones came loose. Terry assesed the situation, and we contacted LHB with photographs of the damage. We removed any loose stones to prevent them falling. Luckily our grant paperwork arrived shortly after, and engineers have just provided with us with the completed shoring design, so we have a plan to adequately stabilize that wall with braces and supports. We are planning the implementation of that plan, and we are in need of able bodied volunteers who are able to help move wood and work to install support beams (under the direction of licensed contractors). If you would like to help with that, please sign up to be notified about the upcoming work schedule, which often happens on weekends.
We will also need to have a historic conservator come out and assess the plaster walls on the second floor, and ensure that we adequately preserve or document the plaster areas near the damaged section before the masonry is rebuilt. This is essential to minimize the damage to hundreds of names and performances that have been written on the walls over the years by students, musicians, and community members.
Once the remaining Construction Drawings are done, we will be able to apply for a grant for the repairs, which will begin with disassembling the damaged wall section, reassembly and re-tuckpointing the area. In the meantime, we need a strong fundraising season in 2021 for matching funds for the grant work, costs of shoring materials, as well as property taxes, electrical and water utilities that we have each month to maintain building conditions. We have the furnaces working in Bauman Hall, which has been very important in drying out the mortar. One of the worst things for these stone buildings is not having consistent temperatures to prevent the mortar from fast deterioration from temperature and moisture fluctuations. These buildings survive best when they have steady radiant heat, like from boiler systems, that keep the stone a constant temperature, which keeps the mortar dry and strong, and keeps moisture out. Having the furnace on, even at a very low temp, is very important, but also increases our expenses for gas.. Your donations and purchases from our fundraisers are critical for covering those operating costs, as grant funds cannot be used for these kinds of overhead expenses, but these donations allow us to keep these buildings viable for each next grant cycle, and demonstrate that the community support is strong, which improves our chances of grants being approved.
Below is a sneak peek at some of our planning documents from the recent MNHS grant, the Shoring Design that we will be implementing this spring. Help us save an important piece of Jasper history! Your donations will go towards wood and steel beams to support the wall, as well as installing some concrete footings as needed. We are in need of more able bodied volunteers for these kinds of projects, as well as upcoming fundraisers and our Food Forest installation this spring. Our next blog will dive into details on that, so stay tuned! Sign up for email updates, and follow us on Facebook to get the news first!