June 28, 2006

Article from the Review

Re-pointing work underway at Higginson Tower

VANKLEEK HILL –  Re-pointing of the 175-year-old stone ruins of the Higginson Observation Tower, plus re-building of about four missing feet of the top portion will take place during the next two months, at a cost of about $40,000.

Roots Restoration was awarded the contract last month by the Higginson Tower Committee to begin work on the tower, which is owned by Champlain Township.
This first phase of restoration began last week, thanks to a fund-raising campaign which has raised about half the funds needed for the total restoration of the 52-foot tower.
Brendan Frauzel, owner of Roots Restoration and Design of Vankleek Hill, says that the key to this portion of the tower restoration is the mortar mix.
The mortar mix being used is lime-based, said Frauzel, which is in keeping with what would have been used at the time. The lime-based mix will allow the building to “breathe” far more than a Portland cement compound.
Frauzel said that his crew worked first to stablize the weaker parts of the structure and removed between a foot and two feet of unstable stone work from the crown of the tower.
It was a challenge to arrange square scaffolding around a round tower, Frauzel said, when there was little to anchor the scaffolding.
Loose mortar must be chipped out with a pneumatic hammer to get back to sound mortar within the wall. Then, deep repointing, or back pointing, fills the deep voids first in between the stones and in some cases, smaller stones are placed in the stone wall before the final layer of mortar is put in place. This final layer of mortar is smoothed with a glove to give it a brushed finish.
The 18-inch thick wall is made of fieldstone with some granite, some limestone and some sandstone.
The stones which are black in colour are granite and have absorbed pollution from the air, Frauzel said.
Limestone resists pollution, he pointed out.
So far, about four feet of the top portion of the outside of the stone wall has been repointed.
The crew is also at work repointing the bottom portion of the stone tower which is below the ground level.
The existing door opening will be left open until near the end of the stone work, says Frauzel. A window opening on the west side of the tower will be recreated as the door it once was originally. Frauzel’s crew will reinstate door and window lintels located within the stone structure and will build and install door and window frames.
The Higginson Tower Committee has been fundraising since earlier this year, with direct canvassing of individuals, businesses and community groups, a gala dance and silent auction on May 6, and has been selling various other items to raise funds, such as limited edition prints of a watercolour painting of the tower by Jackie Shelly.
Donations are still needed to see the project through to completion. Tenders are being prepared for lumber for the top portion of the tower and for the contractor to build the top portion of the tower. A grist stone will be installed to its original spot inside the tower and inside, stairs will allow visitors to climb to the top of the 52-foot structure.
Reproduction tin to replicate that which was on the wooden shell of the tower is being sourced to recreate the circa-1910 look.
New pictures and articles about the ongoing work at the Higginson Tower will be added to the Higginson Tower web site soon. Visit www.vankleekhill.ca and follow the links to find out more about contributing to this landmark restoration project.
All those making donations will receive charitable donation receipts from Champlain Township.
Upon completion, the tower will be a heritage tourism site owned by Champlain Township.
For more information about the Higginson Tower restoration project, contact any committee member: André Martel (613-678-2217); Louise Sproule (613-678-3327); Yves Berthiaume (613-678-3000); Gary Barton (613-678-3003) or Phil Arber (613-678-2873).