The historic masonry exterior of Dalton Apartments, Gary, Ind., gets a good cleaning with PROSOCO products, supplied by Glenrock Company, Elmhurst, Ill., as part of a restoration and rehab slated for completion by September, or sooner. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing
I love working on stories like this one. It’s about a stately, historic building from the 1920s, left vacant since 1991, and brought back from the edge of ruin.
Dalton Apartments, Gary, Ind., is actually two buildings joined by a common wall — the seven-story “Tower” (1928) and the three-story “Modern” (1926).
Developer Harrington Properties, Gary (beautiful name for a town), planned to revive Dalton Apartments for 1999 occupancy, but those plans never made it to reality.
Next up, in 2003, Illinois developer Shawn Loyden, Gary Progress Development, saw the potential in the building’s downtown location, near a commuter railway station and other public transport, as well as the city’s new baseball stadium.
But the ins and outs of business alternately green-lit and red-lit the project. The recent recession didn’t help either, Shawn said. And despite being old, dirty and abandoned, Dalton Apartments is entered in the National Historic Register, which meant all the people, products and procedures involved had to be approved.
“We hung in there,” he said, and in 2010, was rewarded with some light at the end of the tunnel as general contractor Sterling Construction Corporation, Mishawaka, Ind., got to work. They tapped Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration, Griffith, Ind., also experienced with historic buildings, to clean the grimey exterior.
The Midwest crew encountered moderate to severe carbon staining on the building’s red brick, from 70 – 80 years exposure to smoke from Gary’s once-prolific steel mills, said Tom Skertich, Midwest’s project manager for the job.
The mortar joints needed tuckpointing. The limestone trim crawled with light-to-heavy concentrations of biological growth. Cracks and stains defaced the elegant terra cotta ornamentation, at least where chunks hadn’t already fallen away.
Tattered terra cotta was just one of the challenges Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration faced in restoring the true, intended beauty of historic Dalton Apartments. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration
Midwest went to work on Dalton Apartments in September. Their first task — an overall restoration cleaning. Though the building needed tuckpointing and terra cotta repairs — it had to be cleaned first, so the contaminants wouldn’t interfere with the repairs.
At least that was the case on the North, East and West elevations, which only needed limited work. The South elevation was in such dire need that the 100 percent tuckpointing effort had to be first priority, grimy walls or not.
Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration began with the North wall, where a decades-old combination of carbon soiling and biological growth had blackened the masonry more profoundly than any of the other elevations.
Windows on Dalton Apartments North elevation show what skilled restoration cleaning can achieve. Much of the embedded soiling and staining shown here began before the people who removed it were born. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration
“From the looks of it, I doubt the North wall ever saw the sun," Tom said.
The restoration techs wiped the venerable brick free of carbon soiling with Sure Klean Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner. The powerful product is made specifically to do battle with the accumulated layers of black carbon that often shroud the historic buildings of the urban industrial Midwest and Northeast.
Their procedure was simple, Tom said.
Working in 10 by 30 foot drops, the techs soaked down the wall with fresh water. They low-pressure sprayed the wall with Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner, and gave it a few minutes to debond the black mantle. Soft scrubbing with soft-bristle brushes helped hasten the the unwelcome coating's exit, as gentle pressure-washing rinsed it away for capture, treatment and disposal.
The building’s limestone trim got washed with the Sure Klean 766 Prewash and Afterwash system, made specifically for cleaning sensitive limestone, marble and travertine.
The alkaline 766 Prewash restored the limestone's pristine appearance. A follow-up cleaning with Sure Klean Limestone Afterwash added a further cleaning effect to the trim, while neutralizing any leftover alkalinity from the Prewash.
Though the alkaline 766 system won’t hurt sensitive calcareous stone, it’s death on carbon staining. In the few areas of ultra-heavy, hardened carbon crusted brick where even the restoration cleaners struggled, Tom and crew succeeded with 766 Prewash and Afterwash.
With the North wall cleaned, the crew began tuckpointing operations on selected areas. They also attacked the dirty East and West elevations. But since they weren't as heavily soiled as the North wall, the techs used the milder, though still tough Sure Klean Restoration Cleaner, using similar procedures as on the North wall.
Following the tuckpointing, they removed excess mortar and clarified the mortar joints with Sure Klean 600. The classic new-construction masonry cleaner also dissolved excess mortar that had been left on the building from a previous tuckpointing attempt in 2008, that hadn't panned out, Tom said. They cleaned the old-fashioned way, he said, with buckets and bushes.
The cleaned, though still cracked and broken terra cotta got some attention too, in the form of repairs with Jahn M100 Restoration Mortar. Damaged limestone sills got some attention with Jahn M70 Restoration Mortar.
Technicians replaced terra cotta lost or beyond repair with GFRC pieces replicating the original pieces, and provided by Building Blocks, Inc., Chicago, Tom said.
Midwest Pressure Washing & Restoration repaired this terra cotta ornament as part of their restoration of the Dalton Apartment masonry exterior. photo courtesy Midwest Pressure Washing
Midwest wrapped up their work on the building in December as good weather days became ever scarcer. They’d cleaned and repaired three sides but had to wait for Spring to tackle the South elevation.
With the first hint of improving weather in March, the technicians were back on the job. The new-construction cleaning crew followed the masons on the south elevation, removing excess mortar both new and old. The restoration cleaners followed them.
In two weeks, they had finished cleaning and repairs. Over the course of the project, the Midwest crew had turned back the hands of time on about 60,000 square feet of historic masonry, including roughly 10,000 square feet of tuckpointing and repair.
Midwest also treated the development with Sure Klean Weatherseal Siloxane PD (Predilute), a penetrating water repellent. Siloxane PD keeps water from soaking in and creating the very problems Midwest just spent months reversing.
Dalton Apartments also got graffiti protection with Sure Klean Weatherseal Blok Guard & Graffiti Control II, a water-based, environmentally responsible anti-graffiti shield.
Meanwhile work continues inside. The finished property will boast 57 newly remodeled apartments and about 7,547 square feet of commercial space and off-street parking. Amenities include wiring for high-speed internet access, energy-efficient windows and doors, community center, exercise center and meeting center.
The development, which Shawn said is set for a grand opening in September or sooner, will offer both affordable housing and some market-rate units.
With the restoration and rehab, the octogenarian Dalton Apartments have gotten a new lease on life. How long is that lease good for?
“No one ever really knows the answer to that question,” Tom said. “With proper care and maintenance, I’d say indefinitely.”
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