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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Project seeks to save some construction history

Sunday, May 23, 2004

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Jimmy Gipson removes a 1940-era decorative trim piece.
SIKESTON - It's a rare case of including the old in the new, a way to "save a bit of the past and keep it for the future," said downtown Sikeston property owner Ned Matthews.

Built in 1941, Matthews' building on the corner of South Kingshighway and Greer is antiquated and will soon be, for the most part, nothing but a memory: Frank Ferrell's company should have it demolished sometime in June.

Decorative pieces which crowned brick outcroppings on the old building, however, will be spared. "What we save off the John Deere building will be reincorporated into the design of the new building," Matthews said.

Jim Gipson of Gipson Construction in Sikeston, who was hired to recover the decorative pieces and include them in the new office buildings, said he has found this project to be a rare opportunity to get an inside look at both the materials and techniques of 1940s-era construction.

"This is a first for me - a learning experience, really," said Gipson. "It's such a slow process."

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It is the slow pace that has given Gipson his glimpse into the past. "If I wasn't taking it out brick by brick, I would never have had this opportunity," he said.

For example, Gipson has noticed that the decorative pieces were anchored to the building in two different ways which alternate around the building. He suggested that it could have been a master and apprentice, as it appears one workman or crew was more skilled that the other.

One method anchored decorative pieces with bricks laid to protrude from the wall while the other method just anchors them with mortar.

The building reflects old construction techniques in which all the walls were built up at the same time. "Now they do one wall all the way up, then the next wall," Gipson said.

He also said the bricks are not as hard as modern brick.

"This material is really fragile," Gipson said.

Salvaging the decorations, which appear to be made of porcelain covered clay, is more expensive but purchasing the same type of items could cost over $1,000 for even the smaller accent pieces, Gipson said.

A total of 26 of the main decorative pieces were on the building, each of which weighs 125 pounds. "I couldn't believe how heavy they are," Gipson said.

So far, they have only lost two of the main decorative pieces, both of which were already damaged before their removal was attempted.

Fortunately, the top of one of the damaged pieces will be joined with the bottom of the other so only one piece total will be lost.

"They're going to need about 20," Gipson said.

The redevelopment project will include the entire area between Malone Avenue and Greer Street, and from South Kingshighway back to the alley.

Matthews said his great-grandfather bought the lot in the 1880s. In the 1940s, his family put up the buildings standing there now including the "John Deere" building, so named because it was built to accommodate the family's John Deere dealership.

In addition to the major overhauls that the old buildings would have needed, the whole area has struggled with parking issues due to significant changes in traffic over the past 60 years.

The new development will have about 14,000 square feet "of predominately office space," Matthews said, although retail businesses may lease space as well. But the development will also include 71 parking spaces, which is more than adequate for that much office space, he said, as well as "green areas."

Leases for offices will range from personal-sized spaces of 12 by 22 feet on up to 4,000 square feet.

Anyone interested in leasing office space in the new development should contact Matthews at 471-9596.