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Year IV: 2002

Restoration Progress, 2002
State of Alaska sponsored Project #1365:

Annie Hopper, logistics coordinator, Mike Musick, General Contractor, and Sandy Jamieson, Log Builder, began the planning for the First Phase of the Rapids Roadhouse Restoration Project in January 2002. Together we developed supply lists, time frames, and construction plans. We sent out supply lists for bid, solicited donations, and set a construction schedule for May 15 – June 15, 2002.

The basic support elements for work in this remote location were in themselves a challenge and we received help from a variety of sources. A local resident donated a Connex unit to securely store tools since numerous supplies were stolen in FY2001. The Wheat Family of Fairbanks donated a Winnebago to use on site for the duration of the project, which provided valuable shelter during inclement weather and sleeping quarters for security personnel. Volunteers cleaned the old 1950′s lodge (section #6) to provide dining, storage and occasional sleeping space for the hired and volunteer help. Larry Dorhurst donated the use of a 400-gallon water buffalo. We arranged for a Porta-Potty to be on site through 6/24/02. Friends, family members and colleagues provided numerous meals and supplies to feed the full-time crew and large parties of weekend volunteers. The nearby Black Rapids Military Training provided showers through the end of June, as well as refrigeration, freezer storage, and access to electrical outlets to recharge batteries for cell phone, cameras, tools, etc.

Soon after the project started, on May 20, 2002, the Fairbanks Daily News miner ran a front-page story about the restoration project (Appendix B). This unexpected publicity brought numerous visitors to the site throughout the project.

The project had over 45 volunteers. These included some pretty busy notables including Althea St. Martin, special assistant to Senator Murkowski, and Annette Freiburger, Executive Director of Fairbanks Native Association. Our visitor list was equally distinguished and included Tom Moyer, Assistant to Governor Knowles, and the Army Corps of Engineers working on the nearby Ft. Greeley Missile Defense Project. We kept a guest sign-in book throughout the project.

On the last full day of the project, June 23, 2002, essential crewmembers were given commemorative embroidered ball caps in honor of the expertise and dedication they demonstrated in the completion of the first phase.

A photo summation of the project is included as Appendix A. Pages are numbered and correlate with the following summary of activities by week.

Summary of Activities:
Week 1: May 15 – May 19, 2002

Mobilization of resources began with the deliver of the water buffalo, Porta-Potty, Winnebago, and heavy equipment. The weather was harsh with intermittent periods of snowfall mixed with rain. Mark Nielsen began the excavation work slowly removing frozen glacial silt from the perimeter of sections #1 and #7. We had to wait for some of the ground to thaw at times and feared we might have started too early in the summer. Each day the building became more accessible and eventually the entire perimeter was excavated; an old strong box was found buried during excavation but contained no artifacts. This excavation revealed hidden layers of rotted log rounds as well as remnants of a linoleum and wood floor. Additional gravel was then hauled from nearby One Mile Creek and stockpiled on site by dump truck.

Section #7 was strapped, clamped, and vertically stabilized with 4×4 and 6×6 support timbers; the planned 2x4s proved insufficient for the job. Next most of the muslin and canvas material was torn down from the many walls it covered. That which had writing or print on it was salvaged. Writing on the logs themselves revealed clues to the Roadhouse’s past with “James Raymond April 11, 1906 Seattle” and “Fairbanks, 153 miles” inscribed on the interior of the east wall of section #7. Various pieces of Wallace and Queen Ann china were found and stored. Newsprint, comics and old bottles were also found and stored for future inspection.

Sandy Jamieson wonders how old is old | Sandy Jamieson and Mike Musick ponder how and where
The weather turned better late in the first week and remained a perfect temperature with sunny blue skies for several weeks. Volunteers’ laborers arrived including Phil Marshall and Ben Kirker. Volunteer architect Janet Matheson arrived for her first site visit. After consultation with her, the builders decided the Roadhouse should be raised at least an addition five (5) inches from the planned elevation (that of the existing 1950′s lodge, section #6) to improve drainage.

The wind-drifted soil from the interior of section #7 was excavated by hand throughout weeks 1 and 2, and then back filled with gravel and compacted. The undisturbed ground under the lodge was surprisingly well-compacted clean gravel. Thus foundation pad fill took less time and material than originally anticipated. The final compacted interior gravel floor was determined to be six (6) inches below the brass survey monument of 1923. Section #8 was dismantled to allow for access to the southeast corner of section #7 for cribbing and jacking. Salvageable logs were stored for later reconstruction.

The crew stabilized the building sufficiently to take two days off. Workweeks ran Wednesday through Sunday to accommodate working volunteers. Mike Musick and Sandy Jamieson developed an estimate of needed log replacements and developed a labeling system for future log replacement (Appendix C, Catalog and labeling system).

Ben Kirker stayed on site to continue working and provide “weekend” security.

Week 2: May 22 – May 27, 2002
This week involved continued stabilization of Section #7. More bracing was needed and the two-story structure was anchored because it wanted to slide west. We also discovered that the perimeter excavation had exposed the frozen, rotted lower rounds of both sections #7 and adjoining section #1. The Northwest corner of this latter section was threatened with collapse and was propped up. Upon removal of the muslin wall coverings between the two sections, we also discovered that they shared a common interior wall. For these reasons, the decision was made to raise both sections in unison. (This unexpected development and decision proved to be significant: jacking and cribbing, followed by lower round replacement on concrete footings, of both sections involved considerable additional time and resources. This development resulted in grant amendments for both the phase I and phase II grants.)

Architect Janet Matheson, husband and new puppy visit site | Scientist Keith Ecklemeyer and student break for the Hopper kids lemonade.  Soon after the jacking and cribbing began, it became clear that our initial supply of rented cribbing was woefully inadequate and additional sources were sought in Fairbanks. Dave Thompson proved a steady source of assorted timbers and Flow line, Alaska, also donated an additional supply. Mike Hopper hauled down the cribbing on a steady basis upon demand of the builders.

Janet Matheson came for a second site visit and Phil Marshall cleaned the 2nd floor of Section #7. We saved one old bed mattress from the second floor. An old “US Mail” bag was discovered and wall coverings from “Chitna” indicated they might have previously covered dozens of egg crates. Annie Hopper and Phil Marshall worked through Memorial Day. We had fewer visitors this week but the Hopper kids still managed a brisk roadside lemonade business.

Week 3: May 29 – June 2, 2002
Rainy weather and high winds prevailed for much of the week and slowed work. More cribbing was transported to the site and jacking and cribbing adjustment continued slowly and methodically. Excavation for footings began. The rotten floor of section #1 was removed and the interior gravel pad was leveled. Cribbing was then positioned and the section, supported. The rotten lower rounds were then removed and the footings were excavated.

The form boards, donated by P.J. Gesin, (owner of the Tangle River Lodge) arrived and the layout for the footings completed under both sections. Reinforcing steel was positioned as indicated by the project engineer.

8”x8” treated sill timbers were delivered by Mike Hopper and laid out in the newly cleared and leveled ground immediately east of the Roadhouse. Axe work began on the initial supply of replacement logs obtained by Mike Hopper, Richard Musick, Mark Nielsen and volunteers. The Fire Marshall’s construction approval was obtained. Mary Liston fed the crew two days of this week.

Week 4: June 5 – June 9, 2002
Delta Concrete poured footers on a somewhat wet day. The concrete was screeded and finished and anchor bolts placed according to engineer specifications. All went smoothly.
Logging for additional replacement logs at a nearby burn followed for three days. Log work began: cutting and fitting, broad axing and framing. We were fortunate to have Tom Paragi volunteer; he had unexpected experience with historic log work and contributed valuable time and assistance to the crew such that he earned a coveted commemorative ball cap. The first two rounds of logs were placed on the nearby 8×8 timber layout.

We had many volunteers this weekend and Mary Beth Smetzer from the Daily News miner arrived for two days to do a story for a future weekend Heartland section. Professor Henry Cole from UAF and Susan Logue joined us and helped organize food and supplies.

Week 5: June 12 – June 16, 2002
Log work continued in a steady pace. It appears that the builders of the roadhouse used several different techniques in the axe work in the various sections of the Roadhouse. Sections were not fitted evenly or consistently. Replication and fitting of logs proved especially challenging. Sandy and Mike believe that Section #7 may originally have been one-story and that a second story was added at a later date. Historic photo #3 (Appendix D, Dorothy Loftus 1920′s collection) suggests this possibility. Similarities in log rounds on section #7 appear to match the old photo.

We ran out of all-thread and lag bolts at a critical juncture this week and had to scavenge around Delta on a Sunday to find these. George Sandlin, a long-time resident of Delta, came to our rescue.
The jacking, leveling, and re-cribbing efforts continued. Salvageable historic logs were placed in the lower round reconstruction. Ultimately, new logs were needed variously from as few as four to as many as eleven rounds. Sections #1 and #7 needed to be raised a final fourteen (14) inches to accommodate the reconstructed lower round structure.

Sandy Jamieson looks beneath | The guys and the last log Sandy, Mike, Tom and Richard
Following the groundbreaking ceremony at the nearby Missile Defense project, Althea St. Martin and Annette Freiburger arrived to volunteer cooking and cleaning for two days. The Corps of Engineers from the Missile Defense project came for dinner and admired Mike and Sandy’s handiwork. Tom Moyer dropped by to visit.
Bryon Borgesson completed a site visit and affirmed current progress and log replacement plans.

Week #6: June 19 – June 26, 2002
The two sections were jacked the additional 14 inches. This final 14 inches was time consuming as the older section #7 had to be jacked very slowly and frequently wanted to shift. The replicated lower round log structure was dismantled and laid out in order by section for reassembly on site. The treated timbers were then drilled and bolted on to the cement footers. Log replacement began with the east walls and moved to the south, north, west, and finally the interior wall. The corners were fastened with wooden dowels. On Saturday, June 22, 2002, the two sections were finally lowered on to their new mates.

A celebration followed! On Sunday, June 23, 2002, chinking of the replacement rounds with local moss collected by volunteers was completed. The bracing materials were removed and the breakdown of the camp followed. Clean up and de-mobilization took several days. Cribbing was returned and required numerous roundtrips to Fairbanks. Mike Hopper transported back to Fairbanks, but not without a trailer breakdown in Delta that required a round-trip rescue mission the skidder on Wednesday, June 26, 2002. Mike Musick returned to the site on that day to clean up debris and cover openings with plywood. Mike recommended that a permanent sign be posted to warn visitors to say out of the building and to remove the unstable stairs to the second floor of section #7. The Porta-Potty and water buffalo were removed from the site.

Since then, the builders and project manager have met to finalize billing and compose the narrative. We are very pleased with the success of this, our first phase in the restoration of the Rapids Roadhouse.