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Milestones reached at Marsh House

 

Henry Estorga of State Parks’ Direct Construction Unit drills through recently installed construction foam that is helping to stabilize John Marsh’s Stone House in the Marsh Creek State Park.

Henry Estorga of State Parks’ Direct Construction Unit drills through recently installed construction foam that is helping to stabilize John Marsh’s Stone House in the Marsh Creek State Park.

The effort to save and restore the first stone manor built in California has taken some major steps forward.

Last week a layer of construction foam was applied to help stabilize the walls of the Stone House built by pioneer John Marsh in 1856 in what is now Marsh Creek State Park in East Contra Costa County. The foam, applied to the interior of the walls so as not to affect the building’s unique Gothic Revival style, adds strength and support to the rubblework construction of the 159-year-old building.

This week, State Parks’ Direct Construction Unit is drilling through the foam and into the backs of the stones to install tie-rod bolts. In the coming weeks, the bolts will be fastened to a steel-stud framework set in a concrete foundation to be poured alongside the original, sandstone underpinning.

The work is part of a $750,000 stabilization project that has been steadily making progress since February, and should be completed this summer. More work will be needed before the house can be opened to the public, and the Trust is trying to get as much of it funded as possible while crews are on site. “We’ll get things done a lot more affordably now than if we have to pay to mobilize crews again in the future,” said Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre.

“We’d like to install more tie-rods now, and there will be more architectural and engineering fees to pay as well,” Lemyre said. “But this step means that small outfalls of rock that have deteriorated the house’s stability will no longer happen. Once the studs and tie-bolts are in place, it will be a big help in resisting damage from wind, rain and earthquakes, too.”

The project reached another milestone when State Parks, which is managing the project, expended the last of a $200,000 grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE). Construction delays had threatened the grant, the spending deadline for which had twice been extended since it was awarded in 2012. The last of the CCHE money was spent with a week to spare.

Other project funding includes $350,000 from thousands of individual donations to the Trust, and $205,000 from State Parks.

The Trust is looking for new members on its Board of Directors to help expand on recent progress. It’s also seeking donations for operations as activity increases.

“A lot is happening right now, and we want to keep the momentum going,” Lemyre said.

Tax-deductible credit card donations can be made by clicking on the PayPal button on this site. You do not have to be a PayPal member to donate. The Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Click to enlarge additional photos below:

The construction foam is seen on the building's west wall, next to the stairs from the second floor to the third. Photo by Rick Lemyre the pins mark locations where holes will be drilled to install tie-rods. Photo by Rick Lemyre

The construction foam is seen on the building’s west wall, next to the stairs from the second floor to the third. Photo by Rick Lemyre the pins mark locations where holes will be drilled to install tie-rods. Photo by Rick Lemyre

 

Tie-rods have been placed in holes drilled into this first-floor wall on the building's west side. The rods will be expoxied into the the exterior stones, then attached to new steel studs to be installed in the coming weeks. Photo by Rick Lemyre

Tie-rods have been placed in holes drilled into this first-floor wall on the building’s west side. The rods will be expoxied into the the exterior stones, then attached to new steel studs to be installed in the coming weeks. Photo by Rick Lemyre

The east wall of the first-floor parlor after receiving a thick layer of construction foam to help stabilize it. Photo by Rick Lemyre

The east wall of the first-floor parlor after receiving a thick layer of construction foam to help stabilize it. Photo by Rick Lemyre

The first-floor parlor wall prior to the foam installation shows the rubblework masonry construction used on many old buildings. Photo by Rick Lemyre

The first-floor parlor wall prior to the foam installation shows the rubblework masonry construction used on many old buildings. Photo by Rick Lemyre

Trust becomes a Cooperating Association

The John Marsh Historic Trust got word today (March 11, 2015) that its application to become a Cooperating Association for State Parks has received final approval.State Parks logo 300

Wayne Breece, Cooperating Associations Program Manager for California State Parks, called Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre with the good news, the culmination of more than a year of effort. “Congratulations!” Breece said. “We look forward to working with you.”

Cooperating associations (CAs) are non-profit charitable organizations dedicated to enhancing educational and interpretive programs in California State Parks. The JMHT brings the total number of CAs to 88, serving most of the 280 state parks (some CAs serve more than one park). The associations’ memberships total more than 27,000, providing docents, volunteers, and educational and interpretive needs that State Parks would otherwise be unable to provide.

The historical preservation role the Trust has played for 20 years will continue, with a major focus on restoring John Marsh’s Stone House. The Trust will also continue in its recent efforts to improve and develop other parts of the Marsh Creek State Park and get them open to the public.

“There is so much in the park that we can help accomplish, it’s amazing, and a little overwhelming,” said Lemyre. “There are 70 miles of trails, hundreds of camping sites, and some ancient archaeology that needs to be protected.”

The improvements to the park’s land and facilities are just a part of the Trust’s expanded goals. Important cultural history is also there to be explored.

“The history of the Bay Miwok Indians that lived on land in within the park is also fascinating, and all but forgotten,” Lemyre said. “So is the history of Hispanics in the area, first as part of Mexican-controlled Alta California, then through Marsh’s work with the vaqueros who helped him run his ranch.”

About a half-dozen threatened or endangered species live within the parks 3,700 acres, and work must be done to protect them and many endangered species of indigenous plants. A 7,000-year-old archaeology site near the house, which has been called “the most significant in the (State Parks) system” by the Sacramento Archaeology Society, also needs protection and further study.

“The possibilities for the park are virtually limitless,” Lemyre said. “We’ll continue our focus on restoring the Stone House, but the chance to help with so many other wonderful projects at the same time is aa rare opportunity. The fact is that until we can get some things done and get parts of the park open, people won’t be able to get into the park to visit Marsh’s historic home. Being a CA will be a huge help in generating the kind of support we need to get things done for the benefit of everyone.”

Lemyre said the Trust board will be meeting soon with State Parks officials to create a list of priorities to address. In the meantime, work will continue on the $750,000 stabilization project now under way and expected to be completed this summer.