Susan McConnell, regular contributor to the Barrington White House Blog, interviews Tony Frisone, Construction Foreman for Pepper Construction.
Susan: What’s new at Barrington’s White House? It’s freezing by the way. 14 degrees!
Tony: It’s cold outside, but we’re not slowing down. The first geothermal well is being dug and the goal is to go down 500 feet. The water is being collected and the steam from the water is what people are seeing from the street.
Susan: 500 feet? That’s hard to imagine.
Tony: Imagine a 50 story building. That’s how deep each well will be. There will be 8 wells in all. This is exciting to watch because this is new technology, cutting edge stuff.
Susan: What’s new on the inside of the house?
Tony: In terms of the woodwork, which is one of my specialties, we’re making decisions about what we can use and what we can rebuild. Some of the walls were built so intricately with lots of small pieces of wood, but we need to make sure that the walls will stand strong for a long, long time. So they may need to be rebuilt.
Susan: How about the windows?
Tony: The original window sills are still in great shape, except for the one that we think a squirrel decided to chew on. I can fix that by hand. We won’t even need to take the window out.
Susan: Have you found any surprises?
Tony: Well, we think we’ve discovered the original wallpaper. It looks hand painted to me. (He tears a bit off as a gift.) There’s no company name on the back. It’s behind plaster board and it’s been covered up for a long time. We’re being really careful when we find old stuff like this. We’ll save it all.
Susan: How about all of the woodwork that’s been removed? (He walks me over to a big storage unit full of wood.)
Tony: We have it all. The paint needs to be removed in a very methodical way because it’s lead based. Do you know how that’s done?
Susan: No idea.
Tony: Walnuts. They use a walnut spray. No chemicals. Doesn’t damage the wood.
Susan: Will all of this wood be reused?
Tony: That’s our goal. This wood is mostly douglas fir and it’s mostly in great shape. But look at the way construction took place back in the 1800’s. They pieced it all together with so many different sizes of wood. This was really hard work. See that section of roof? We’re not sure what to do with that, but we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of it. We want to figure out how to use it as artwork or something.
Susan: I was here the day that was removed. The whole process took so long and the guys were working so hard that their specialty saws were smoking. Every time the crane tried to pull a section away the guys had to go back in and cut some more. It was like it didn’t want to come apart.
Tony: They had to keep replacing the blades. They were breaking like crazy. This roof wasn’t made to be taken apart, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t going to be right for this building going forward. Plus there were two fires that damaged it structurally.
Susan: When is the new roof coming?
Tony: It should start to arrive mid-December, perhaps a little earlier. We’re all ready for it.
Susan: What’s the next important thing that will be happening?
Tony: The wells will continue to be dug. That’s quite a show. And next week the stairs will be put into the new basement. Have you been down there?
Susan: The last time I was in the basement was when they were digging it deeper by hand. I saw the concrete going in, but I haven’t seen it finished.
Tony: Well, next week you’ll be able to walk down the stairs and see what the new basement looks like. Bring your camera. Everyone will want to see this!
A Message from Barrington’s White House: This project is made possible by the generous donations of Barrington families, foundations and corporations. Please donate and become a part of Barrington’s first community center!