BRENTWOOD -- It was not any easy task, but organizers of the John Marsh Historic Trust have won approval for its next step of reconstruction plans and can now move forward with rebuilding the foundation of the 156-year-old home of the first American pioneer to move to Contra Costa County.
The plan calls for the use of polyurethane foam as construction reinforcement and will begin sometime this fall.
"Both the north and south stonewalls are failing," said Gene Metz, president of the John Marsh Historic Trust Inc. "At this point, it is important to reinforce the south wall with steel rods and take the load off the fragile stone."
The problem the group had been wrestling with for the past several months was that cutting into the walls to insert the steel rods would cause more damage structurally to the entire building. Then someone suggested the unusual method of adding polyurethane foam into the stone to reinforce the rods.
"This is something that isn't commonly used, so it took some convincing before we were allowed to proceed on the project," Metz said.
To meet state requirements, first Metz and his construction crew had to test the proposed method on an outside structure to see whether it worked. They needed to see first whether the steel rods would improve the strength of the wall, and second, whether the foam would be compatible with the stones.
Metz said it was up to the trust to fund the research. The group made
"This was an extremely important step for us," Metz said.
The group has been working for the past few decades to reinstate the house to its former splendor. It not only needs to keep the building safe for earthquakes, but the trust also wants to keep it within the requirements of the National Registry as a Historic Landmark. That means keeping the building as close to the original as possible.
"We are working to make it exactly like the original house. That means that the steel rods will go exactly in the same spots they currently are in," Metz said.
Metz prefaces this by saying that the house will be the original design with the exception of the tower, which will look like the 1868 version of the house. In 1867, the tower attached to the house fell in an earthquake and was rebuilt with large wooden blocks. The previous stone structure is gone and makes it hard for the trust to see the exact details for bringing it back.
"We are going to compromise and use a wood that looks like stone," he said.
Earlier, the California Cultural and Historical Endowment assisted with a $200,000 grant, which the John Marsh Historic Trust will match to pay for the new construction, as well as another grant that the city of Brentwood matched to do the stabilization work.
While the trust has money to complete the foundation work on the restoration project, a lot of work still needs to be completed inside the house. Fundraising is a continued goal for the trust.
The group is still selling pieces of the broken brick from the property, stamped with the John Marsh House name on it for $40 in person and $45 through the mail.
The group will also host a fundraiser at the Hannah Nicole Vineyards called "A Taste of California" on Oct. 14. Tickets for the wine, music and food pairing event are available in advance through the trust's website at www.johnmarshhouse.com or at the door.
Reach Roni Gehlke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: 'A Taste of California,' a John Marsh Historic Trust fundraiser
When: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14
Where: Hannah Nicole Vineyards, 6700 Balfour Road, Brentwood
Info: 925-303-5248 or 925-240-0932 or www.johnmarshhouse.com or email email@example.com
Cost: $35 if purchased before Oct. 1; $40 at the door