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Historic restoration leaves no stone unmortared

Staff writer

Using techniques of a bygone era, craftsmen are meticulously restoring a structure at Judy and Roy Houdyshell’s historic Island Field Ranch at 250th Rd. and US-56/77.

The ranch house, built between 1897 and 1900, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

A stone outbuilding constructed about the same time stands just north of the house. It has a full basement and sits on a limestone foundation.

When the Houdyshells moved to the ranch in 1991, the outbuilding’s basement entryway of high stone walls and a stone overhang had fallen down. All that was left was a pile of stones.

After several years, they decided to remove and store the fallen rocks. Recently, they contracted with Professional Stone Masonry of Cottonwood Falls to rebuild the entry.

Business owner Carl Kop and two employees have been working on the project for several weeks, building up the entry walls.

Kop’s business doesn’t do renovations but is a stone restoration company specializing in lime mortar, a mortar that he calls historically accurate.

The company makes its own mortar using dehydrated lime.

The mortar has to be matched to the stone to make sure it is softer than the stone, Kop said.

He likes to do things the traditional way, including use of chisels and hammers. Any additional stone needed is accessed from the property. Large blocks of limestone are cut to the correct size.

Kop started his business about three weeks ago. He has been a professional stone mason for 20 years, working for Koch Construction Specialties. He branched off to form his own company with his boss’s blessing. They still work together on bigger projects.

“I try to keep it small,” he said.

Judy Houdyshell is known for her efforts to preserve history. She helped put the ranch house as well as the Amelia Park Bridge, located on the ranch, on the list of historic places.

“I like to keep things original,” she said. “I’m curious what they are going to find when they finish the basement and clean up the floor. I’m wondering if there is a well there.”

She is a great-great-granddaughter of original ranch owner G.H. Wight.

The initials “OW” found inside the building are believed to have belonged to his nephew, Ollie Wight, grandfather of Record publisher Eric Meyer.

Last modified June 12, 2024

 

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