Topless in Fort Collins
By Ginger Graham
No, we're not talking about the recent judgement issuing an injunction against Ft. Collins' ordinance banning women from going topless, we’re just worried about our building! With late winter weather dropping rain and snow, and the slightly unstable peaks of the building completely exposed, we’re rushing to stabilize and reroof a 100+ year-old building that’s currently topless!
The roof removal started on a calm and sunny weekend, with crew members attaching ropes to body harnesses, then climbing high atop the old Feed Mill - definitely not a job for anyone scared of heights. Standing on the old tin roof with a 40 degree pitch that's over 40 feet high, the crew forcibly removed tin, wood decking and the rafters – all of which had been in place for a century.
The task was further complicated by the poor condition of the building. We had delayed removing the roof while we worked to stabilize the building - we'd discovered that the interior brick walls had lost much of their grout. The original, old time grout that remained had become chalky and sandy, and could literally be wiped off with your hand. A leaky roof and years of rain and neglect had eroded whole sections of grout, leaving bricks sitting in a stack with nothing around them. The building was not as stable as we had assumed!
The roof removal was staged into sections and preceded by bracing, masonry repair and other efforts to secure the walls. The crews affixed rows of wood to the height of the interior walls and then used long metal and wood angles to attach the walls to the floor. Each area had to be stabilized, then the roof and interior wood structures were removed.
Straps were secured around the “points” to try to stabilize these distinctive roof-line features that are unique to the building and of historic importance. Their loss at this point would be devastating!
I keep looking at the building and thinking about the structure: it’s three stories of bricks stacked straight into the air, with grout in only a few places, and it’s still standing! We're so thankful the outer layer of brick is stronger than the interior brick and is covered with spackle and paint, which provides a little more support to the walls.
We also know the original building was built without the existing front room. The storefront we all recognize, with the big nine-pane glass windows, was an addition. When the addition was built, they didn’t bother to change the window on the original front of the building... they just covered part of it up.
It may have been expedient, but years of rain and snow worked through that window sash and down the interior walls of the building leaving a trail of damage. As part of the renovation, we’ll be raising the lower sash of the window above the roof point. And the roofers will be adding insulation in the roof and spaces for electrical wiring as we transform the upper portion of the Mill into a high-ceilinged, welcoming space for event rentals and community events.
I can’t wait to see the new roof in place. It will both compress the sides of the building; stabilizing and securing them (whew!)... and attach the roof to the floor so that the roof won’t fly off in Colorado winter windstorms (double whew!). We won’t be topless for long!