Naper Settlement is making emergency repairs this summer on one historic building to keep it safe and standing, while preparing to demolish another structure recently damaged by fire.
Described as the "cornerstone" of the settlement's downtown campus, the Martin Mitchell Mansion is undergoing emergency repairs, while one of the blockhouses in the replica of the historic Fort Payne is set to be razed.
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The two tall chimneys at the mansion are being partially rebuilt in response to potentially dangerous deterioration found during a building condition assessment started in May, settlement spokeswoman Donna DeFalco said.
"In the middle of the assessment, they realized there were some problems with the mansion's roof and it needed to be repaired immediately," DeFalco said.
Scaffolding was installed in mid-June to protect the public and allow continued access for tours of the mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while Berglund Construction of Chicago fixes the two tall chimneys. The company will disassemble and rebuild the top one-third of each chimney and fix tuckpointing on the lower sections under a $69,125 contract the city council approved Tuesday.
The mansion's two shorter chimneys were determined to be stable during the building assessment, which DeFalco said is the first such review of the settlement's buildings and collections since the early or mid-1990s.
While chimney repairs progress, the settlement also is preparing to demolish the Fort Payne blockhouse that sustained fire damage in May.
Fencing will be installed to complete the corner of the fort on the south side of the settlement grounds -- at least until plans for how to weave the blockhouse into the future Fort Payne Learning Playscape are developed, DeFalco said.
Wight & Company and Hitchcock Design Group are working on designs for a $340,000 interactive play area for young children to be incorporated into the fort, which volunteers built in 1979 based on the original Fort Payne built in 1832.
"We want to make sure the blockhouse is designed to fit into the playscape experience," DeFalco said. "We want to make the fort and the playscape are as interactive as possible."
The playscape is a key element of the settlement's master plan, and is set to feature a splash-pad water-play area, a performance stage and a large interactive covered wagon.