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Works starts, pauses at Stone House

 

By Richard Wisdom --A California State Parks wildlife monitor peers down from the third floor of the John Marsh Stone House Monday. The good news is the bird nest found earlier was no longer a concern; the bad news was that the eggs were eaten by a rattlesnake that must be removed before work can continue.

By Richard Wisdom –A California State Parks wildlife monitor peers down from the third floor of the John Marsh Stone House Monday. The good news is the bird nest found earlier was no longer a concern; the bad news was that the eggs were eaten by a rattlesnake that must be removed before work can continue.

Work began Monday on the long-awaited stabilization of the John Marsh Stone House Monday, but was stopped again Tuesday to deal with a well-fed rattlesnake.

The $790,000 project on the 158-year-old sandstone mansion in Marsh Creek State Park near Brentwood is being closely monitored by on-site wildlife experts, Native American representatives and archaeologists. At Monday’s final pre-construction meeting, the construction team learned that a nest with pigeon eggs found two weeks earlier would not pose a problem, as the eggs had been eaten by a rattlesnake.

After digging a few test “pot holes” prior to work on the foundation, it was decided to suspend operations until the snake, which had taken up residence on the third floor, could be caught and removed.

The work is expected to take 120 days, barring significant delays. State Parks Archaeologist Richard Fitzgerald on Tuesday said the house sits atop ancient Indian burial sites and 7,000 years of archaeological history. “You can probably dig up artifacts with your toe,” he said. Although fragments are expected, significant findings in the area of the project are unlikely, as the ground was disturbed when the house was originally built.

Dirt from the project is being removed from the building in buckets, sifted, and returned. Human remains will be turned over to the Bay Miwok tribe for reburial.

At the same time, the John Marsh Historic Trust is working close last-minute funding gaps that could total $50,000. Should delays be significant, cost of construction would also increase and have to be covered, according to Trust President Gene Metz. Contributions can be made via credit card or PayPal on this site.

 

Light at the end of the tunnel

The collapsing north wall will be repaird and braced during the stabilization project set to begin July 14, 2014.

The collapsing north wall will be repaird and braced during the stabilization project set to begin July 14, 2014.

California State Parks will begin the long-awaited stabilization project on the John Marsh Stone House on July 14, 2014, and it’s not a moment too soon.

The $755,000 project is being paid for by $350,000 in donations to the John Marsh Historic trust, a $200,000 grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, and a $205,000 construction set-aside by State Parks. Work is expected to be completed in 120 days.

Before the job can be finished, however, an additional $49,500 must be raised. The lengthy process in beginning the work resulted in increased costs that must be covered before the construction can be competed.

“We’re hoping that the 3,000 or so people who have contributed to saving the Stone House over the years will once again step up and contribute what they can to help bring the project home,” said Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre.

The 156-year-old Stone House’s fragile, sandstone walls have been increasingly in danger of collapse for decades. The south wall fell in the 1970s, and was replaced with a steel-stud and stucco wall in 2010. The top of the north wall has since begun collapsing, and will be repaired and braced during the upcoming project.

Steel studs and heavy construction foam will be placed in a new foundation behind the existing walls to prevent further deterioration.

“This project will buy us time to complete the fundraising we must do to finish restoring the building and get it open to the public,” said Lemyre. “We won’t have to fear total collapse while we broaden our effort to also open parts of the Marsh Creek State Park where it is located. A beautifully restored house won’t be very useful if people can’t get into the park to visit it.”

The park’s General Plan was approved in 2012, and includes 70 miles of trails, hundreds of campsites, and equestrian and RV facilities. At 3,700 acres, it is the largest historical park in California. The Trust is working with State Parks to find partners and money to open parts of the park a bit at a time as money is raised.

“If you’ve ever considered supporting this effort, now would be the time to do it, or do it again,” Lemyre said. “Donations received now will have a huge impact on the future of the Stone House as well as the Marsh Creek State Park.”

John Marsh, the first American settler in Contra Costa County and the first doctor in California, built the Stone House for his beloved wife, Abby. Built of locally quarried sandstone near Brentwood, the house was the first stone manor house built in the state. Tragically, Abby died a few months before its completion in 1856. Marsh himself was murdered just weeks after moving in.

Tax-deductible donations can be made via credit card or PayPal using the link on this page. Checks can be mailed to: John Marsh Historic Trust, P.O. Box 1682, Brentwood CA.