Workers have removed 220 tons of concrete roof from the former Buckeye Candy building in downtown Mount Vernon in a $6 million effort to restore the warehouse for College and community use.
“One hundred years ago, guys were up on that roof topping out the building with pure manpower, without modern equipment. Now we have guys up on the roof with sledgehammers and shovels and wheelbarrows. It’s going down the same way it went up,” said Seth Millam, construction project manager. “This is the hardest part of the renovation.”
Removing the roof allows for the removal of pillars inside the building at 400 S. Main St. Steel supports soon will go in and allow for open space in the center of the building for a two-story College film studio on the second floor and for the Science Play-Space Initiative, also known as SPI Spot, on the first floor.
“We are definitely trying to fit a lot into a small space,” said SPI Spot Executive Director Rachel Garcia. “There will be more things for older kids than we had before, and there will be more active play areas for little kids.”
Kenyon acquired the 1910 building a year ago with support from the Ariel Foundation, the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County, and private donors. The building was previously owned by Mark Ramser, a Knox County businessman. Part of his preservation work was to put a new roof over the historic roof.
“Mark definitely saved the building. It was dry inside when we got it,” said Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman. “Without him and the efforts he made over the last decade — as sound as the construction of the building was — there would have been no use for this building anymore.”
The condition of the warehouse caused some challenges that delayed the renovation design by Gund Partnership, the architecture and planning firm headed by Graham Gund ’63 H’81. The 18,000-square-foot building needed to be stabilized because the foundation on the southeast corner had settled lower in the ground.
Columbus-based construction firm Elford Inc. began work on the warehouse in March. Plans are to have the building open to the public during the Mount Vernon Christmas Parade on November 27, to have SPI Spot move in in December and to open the building to Kenyon classes in January 2017.
The Kenyon film program will occupy the top two floors of the building. The Community Foundation recently granted $75,000 to buy a green screen and editing, color and sound production equipment for the space. The facility will eventually offer video production workshops to high school students and be available for independent filmmakers to rent during summer months.
To counter the noise of truck traffic passing nearby on Howard Street and state Route 13, the film studio will have special flooring and 14-inch-thick walls made of four layers of drywall with air cavities to mute sound. “It will be a wall on steroids,” Millam said.
Workers are removing bricks to open up the arches on the ground floor of the exterior. Just inside the arches on the south side, SPI Spot will have a reading nook, a climbing structure and a small space for science demonstrations. “The arches opening up will let a lot of nice light throughout the whole space. You will feel outside even when you are inside,” Garcia said.
Workers are salvaging 1,500 of the historic bricks from some interior walls to use on the exterior of the building where bricks are damaged or missing. The steel bars that now dot the exterior for support will be removed when the renovation is done, Kohlman said.
To connect the building with students in Gambier, Knox Area Transit is expanding bus service to the village, Kohlman said. This week it begins testing a route that will make hourly stops in Gambier and shuttle students to the building, with additional stops available at the Kroger supermarket, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Knox Community Hospital and Wal-Mart. Kohlman said the College is subsidizing the route that will operate 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.