The recently completed and multiyear quest by volunteers to stabilize and restore the long-closed Painted Desert Trading Post in northeast Arizona is featured in the current issue of Preservation Magazine, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The article provides a history of the old Route 66 property and a behind-the-scenes telling of how several people bought it and formed the nonprofit Route 66 Co-op to stabilize the building, which was in imminent danger of collapse from neglect after proprietor Dotch Windsor closed it when Route 66 was realigned in 1958.
The article was written by Jim Ross, an author, Route 66 researcher and member of the volunteer group that worked on the building over a period of about three years. Some details:
Raising the walls involved significant risk, as a single mishap could cause the weakened building to break. It was done using multiple screw jacks and timbers strategically placed beneath beams bolted to the walls and ceiling joists. Jacks were cranked one half-turn at a time, stopping at the sound of each ominous pop and crack so crew members could inspect stress points and general stability. Once a wall was elevated, a temporary shear wall was built just inside and parallel to the exterior wall to secure it in place.
With the walls raised and aligned, removal of the roof’s tattered sheet metal and decking followed. Ceiling joists were replaced next, one at a time, then the rafters. Decking and corrugated sheet metal similar to the old materials came from specialty shops in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Foundation work required complete levitation of the building. The shear walls inside, along with timber beams extended through window and door openings, held the structure aloft and allowed for the digging of a perimeter trench. Steel reinforcing bars were then added. Concrete, trucked 50 miles from Joseph City, Arizona, was then poured up to the bottoms of the walls, which had been positioned on plane with the slab floor inside.
There’s more, and it’s worth your while to read. It indeed is one of the great success stories of historic preservation.
More can be found on the Route 66 Painted Desert Trading Post group on Facebook. It’s also where you can find instructions on accessing the site.
(Image of the renovated Painted Desert Trading Post by Mike Ward via Facebook)