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Historic wall gets face back

Staff writer

Work crews recently stripped about 14 tons of stucco from a downtown building that once was Marion’s post office in an effort to restore its east-facing exterior wall to its historic glory.

The building sits at 331 N. Main St., and houses Smith Chiropractic and Acupuncture. Its 1900 construction predates the courthouse by approximately two decades. It also predates Williams St.’s construction.

A 1902 area map identified it as a U.S. Post Office that was built of local limestone.

Owner of Carved in Stone Dillis Owen and son, Zachary, of Wilsey, are performing a tuck-point restoration for building owners Tim and Kathy Wiens, of Newton.

“We removed 14 tons of stucco,” Dillis Owen said. “In one spot, we found a door with the knob still on it. Someone just stuccoed right over it.”

Tim Wiens said the City of Marion notified him a while ago that stucco falling off the wall posed a potential hazard.

“We wanted to protect the building’s structural integrity,” Wiens said. “We also wanted to help beautify the area. My wife and I feel very strongly about protecting and honoring the beauty of historical limestone buildings in downtown Marion.”

Concrete mortar was falling out from between the limestone blocks and the blocks were becoming unstable, Wiens said.

“The whole building could have fallen out into the street if we hadn’t done something,” Dillis Owen said. “It really could have fallen at any time.”

“There was an old building like this one that fell over about two years ago in Council Grove,” Zachary Owen added.

Dillis said limestone walls tend to bulge when mortar falls down to the bottom inside of the walls and expands when water freezes and thaws.

They have a different approach to tuck-pointing. They don’t use tuck pointer tools. First, they push in a “historically correct mortar” which Dillis said is softer than the old mortar they are removing, then use a wire brush and a wet paintbrush to smooth the mortar.

“It’s a method I sort of invented,” Dillis Owen said.

The Owens repaired the worst parts of the wall first. They also reset loose blocks, replaced missing chunks near a chimney at the top of the wall, and evened out bulges.

“When we are done, it will look the way it originally did when it was first built,” Zachary Owen said.

Last modified March 24, 2016

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