By this time next year, Ottawa's historic Reddick Mansion could look much closer to its original appearance when it oversaw the first of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 in Washington Square.
The Reddick Mansion Association approved contracts of a combined total of around $1.2 million for exterior renovations at the 100 W. Lafayette St. building. Renovations are expected to begin in April and to be completed by the end of 2019 with a possibility of extending into spring of 2020.
“We are thrilled,” said RMA President Lorraine McCallister. “Since we purchased the building, which was a big undertaking in of itself, we’ve spent the last year and a half doing our due diligence and making sure our ducks were in a row. And now we’re at a point where the work can begin.”
The final price tag is higher than the $700,000 the RMA originally agreed to pay for renovations when they purchased the building in August 2017.
McCallister said an environmental study was conducted due to the age of the building and additional asbestos and lead removal on the exterior raised the price by “jaw-dropping” proportions.
The RMA has the necessary funds from the McClevey Trust but noted the group will need to “tighten our belts” after the restoration with further funds for interior restoration coming from fundraising as well as the tours and events the all-volunteer staff offers.
Still, McCallister said RMA was able to save money by agreeing to do the exterior of all the floors, including balconies, at once rather than agree to do a couple of floors and return years later and conduct a second bidding process and environmental studies.
The balconies still will not be safe for use besides routine maintenance due to weight limit concerns and the historically accurate railings will not match the city’s municipal code, but is allowed as the site has been designated a local landmark. Some aspects of the balconies will be replaced rather than restored to save money, but McCallister noted that pieces being replaced were never the original pieces when the building was constructed in 1858.
The lead contractor for the project, who will also handle the lead abatement, is Heritage Restoration and Design Studio, of Peoria. The asbestos removal will be completed by Valor Technologies, Inc., of Bolingbrook, which specializes in asbestos removal. Midwest Environmental Consulting Services, of Yorkville, will oversee lead paint and asbestos abatement processes.
The RMA placed ads in the The Times in August looking for local companies to pre-qualify with historic restoration qualifications, but none applied. However, Heritage Restoration and Design Studio is familiar with the area after doing work at St. Columba Church, Third District Appellate Court building, First Federal Bank of Ottawa, St. Bede Academy and more.
The Ottawa-based Basalay, Cary and Alstadt architects will continue to work with RMA on the project as will Anne Sullivan, of Sullivan Preservation LLC, as a preservation consultant.
The first part of the project will be the removal of asbestos from the exterior caulking, then lead paint removal and other restoration aspects can begin.
“For a while, we’ll look rather boarded up,” McCallister said.
The RMA expects to still remain open and offer tours throughout the renovation, but access to the building’s grounds may be limited at times due to safety concerns during restoration work.
McCallister said The Reddick Mansion is often referred to as “The Jewel of Ottawa” by city officials and she hopes the building with shimmer in the same way in 2020.
“What we’re trying to do is put the luster and shine back into ‘The Jewel,’” McCallister said. “It was a big commitment and we had to do a lot of soul-searching.”
“I think when we are finished it will look very much like it did during the time of the debate,” she added. “We’re trying to bring it back to that era.”