photos courtesy MSI General and County Materials
As you’d guess from its name, the Mars Cheese Castle, owned by the Ventura family, and located in Kenosha, Wis., has specialized in selling cheese since its opening in 1947. The cheese retailer and gift shop offers more than 300 cheeses from around the world, along with a bakery and a tavern.
The business, which opened in new medieval-style digs in Spring 2011, now has the architecture to go along with its name.
“We had some fun designing this,” said Project Architect Tony Zulli, MSI General Corporation, Oconomowoc, Wis. “It was an opportunity to investigate a type of architecture you don’t see anymore.
“The corbeled arches near the top of the turret and on the main building, for instance; you might see that in brick work from the 1930s and 40s. We really had to think through how to do that with 8-inch concrete block on a single-wythe wall.”
Stone would’ve been the ideal material for a castle, Mr. Zulli said. However, staying in budget while taking the castle theme as far as possible was also part of what made the project fun.
County Materials, Marathon, Wis., created a custom-colored split-faced block using a castlerock mold specifically for the Mars Cheese Castle, Mr. Zulli said.
County Materials also supplied the water-repellent for weatherproofing the custom block. Specifying a water-repellent was a necessity, Mr. Zulli said — “We didn’t want any problems with water getting into the block.”
Dick Ciotti, Ruffalo Painting, also of Kenosha — their headquarters is about two miles North of the Cheese Castle — used airless sprayers and a 60-foot lift to apply PROSOCO’s Sure Klean Weather Seal Blok-Guard & Graffiti Control.
While the Cheese Castle’s design and construction took some resourcefulness, Mr. Ciotti said applying Blok Guard & Graffiti Control was problem-free.
“I’ve used it before, mostly on schools,” Mr. Ciotti said. “So I knew it worked fine.”
Applying from bottom to top in swaths about 8 feet wide, Mr. Ciotti started with the castle’s south elevation, then moved to West, North and East.
The silicone-based treatment imparts water-repellency to the block by filling the microscopic masonry pores with water-repellent molecules. Unable to penetrate, water simply beads up and rolls off. However, water already in the block can evaporate out, a characteristic known as “breathability.”
The filled pores also make it hard for graffiti media like spray paint to get a grip on treated surfaces. When paint, ink and other media can’t penetrate, they can be cleaned off much more easily than they could on unprotected surfaces.
Mr. Ciotti said he spent about two to three weeks weatherproofing the building in October 2010, toward the end of construction. Good weather added to the ease of the application, he said. Temperatures stayed in the 50s and 60s, and rain stayed away.
“That’s not always the case,” he added.
Turrets, arches, a drawbridge-style entrance and the castle’s other medieval details weren’t the only things Mr. Zulli said he enjoyed about the project.
“We were lucky enough to have clients who let us do what we wanted, while trusting us to look out for their interests,” he said. “I’m proud of the design. It worked out well for everyone.”
The Wisconsin Masonry Alliance echoed that assessment. At its recent Excellence in Masonry Awards event, the organization named the Mars Cheese Castle “Best of Show,” and “Best of Concrete Masonry” 2012.
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