Why would a beautiful set of cast iron stairs bring me sadness? Well, let me tell you.

If there's one thing I love about so many of the historic homes and shops around Old Town it's their antique cast iron front stairs.

I love these types stairs so much so that we, along with our neighbors, went to great lengths to replace the 1950s brick front steps that adorned our home when we moved in with salvaged and reproduction cast iron parts and patterns from a local expert craftsman.

Today, the only thing that will tell you our stairs aren't original to our homes is the little plaque on the lower first riser that dates them to their install in 2006.

It was a significant investment of both time and money, but it's one of those unique pieces of our home that I truly stare at and appreciate almost each and every day.

That's why it pains me to report a casualty of the escalation variety in another stair set in Old Town. Don't worry, it's not our stairs that were involved, it was actually those beautiful blue stairs located on the south west corner of Washington and Duke St. The unfortunate victim of an auto accident...then an apparent contractor "accident"...several times over.

Here are the beauties, pre-accident.

Some rust and a little weathering, but in pretty great shape overall.

Just look at how sweeping and graceful they are. Curved railing, ornamental collars mid railing, intact risers and treads, all with their original patterns. You'd be hard pressed to find a more grand example of cast iron stairs anywhere in Old Town. Even the cast iron fence attached to the stairs is amazing.

But about a year ago there was a car accident at this very busy intersection that sent at least one car careening over the sidewalk and into the railing and stairs. The end result? Massive damage.

As I mentioned, this is a busy intersection, and one where accidents do happen. In fact, Wendy was involved in a pretty serious accident here this Spring when another driver ran the red light on Washington while Wendy was traveling on Duke. It's just not good. People drive too fast and don't pay enough attention.

But during last year's little car vs. stairs incident, the stairs took the brunt of the impact and were left a bit worse for the wear. Well, a "bit" is a bit of an understatement, they looked friggen horrible.

By the time I snapped a photo of the aftermath, the police caution tape already wrapped the scene like the world's worst Christmas in July gift. The stairs had been broken and battered, with several risers and stringers fractured from the force of the impact.

The brittle metal didn't stand a chance against the careening several thousand pound projectile, which also cleared a substantial length of the fencing from its century long perch.

The newel post askew, like a nearly fallen tree damaged in a raging storm. But there was no weather to blame for this damage, only a careless driver, poor reaction time, and the inevitability of Newton's 3rd law of physics...:shakes fist: damn you Newton!!!

The friendly "No Loitering" sign was added the day after the accident to ensure, perhaps, that neighborhood parties would not be taking place on the fragile stairs? There went my plans for a post happy hour gathering.

Knowing the difficulty in finding a qualified local craftsman to correct the issues caused by this massive failure in high speed human transportation, I had high hopes that the city might steer the building's owner, a small Ohio banking institution, in the right direction. I took a wait and see approach, but still hoped for the best.

Fast forward roughly 365 days and where do we stand?

Well, we're not doing very well.

At some point over the last year someone was hired to "repair" the damage, but seems to have only succeeded in causing additional damage. No attempt was made to reset the newel posts or unseated and mangled stringers, but there was a foolhardy attempt at welding the broken pieces...which immediately rusted after the untreated and poor weld was exposed to its first rain storm.

It would have been better to attempt a fix using a combination of grade school paste, some silver glitter, and dried pasta shapes.

It seems the various replacement parts and pieces have gotten more and more creative as time has gone one. What started as a simple metal garden fence to replace the ornate cast iron fence pattern...

...morphed into some white picket plastic fence in plastic shrink wrap and propped into place.

I can only hope that a portion of the fence has been removed to be sent off for replication to replace the damaged section. I've got my fingers and toes crossed for that.

And the icing on the cake, those lovely sweeping curved handrails that truly defined the stairs have been replaced by a pair of untreated straight metal pipes, clumsily bent into place and allowed to rust like the careless welds on the treads.

Please, let me take a moment to gather myself, I fear if I go any further I may make a blubbering fool of myself.

Okay, I've regained my composure enough to keep talking about it, but it won't be easy.

The intent of this blog post is not to publicly shame this organization into making the repairs this previously beautiful set of stairs requires. Not at all. This is more about chronicling the journey these poor stairs have been on, and my continued hope that the stairs will be restored. But the question that begs to be answered, where is the car insurance company's coverage in this whole endeavor? And why is it a year later, and only cheap bandaids have been slapped on?

After losing some of my initial high hopes I looked up the property owner and determined their headquarters location in Zanesville, Ohio. I was a bit discouraged by the fact it's owned by a non-local, but I trudged ahead with my plan.

Using my local knowledge of Fred Mashack, the expert craftsman responsible for so many beautiful stair repairs and builds around Old Town, and leveraging my love of all things architecturally old and pure, I penned a letter to the bank's contact to let them know how much these stairs mean to Old Town, how to contact Fred, and how we, as neighbors, are looking forward to the stair's repair.

I'm relatively certain I came across as a crazy person. Scratch that "relatively," I'm certain. But it's my hope that they will see past my crazy person persona and will use our experience and advice for good. And some day, it's my ultimate hope, that Lulu and I will be able to proudly loiter on their beautifully restored example of cast iron artistry.

A boy and his dog can dream.

What do you think? What would you put our odds at seeing these great stairs resurrected, rescued from the trash pile? Or do you think it's more likely they'll just keep adding more random stuff as temporary rehabilitation? I think an inflatable might look particularly nice perched atop the stair landing come the holiday season.

Comments 17


Leah M.
7/16/2014 at 10:35 AM

I think it's good you at least tried! Those bootleg "fixes" just reflect badly on the bank itself. I wouldn't approach a place like that for a loan, that's for sure!

7/16/2014 at 11:24 AM

Oh man, if they don't want them then maybe I should offer to replace them with your standard Home Depot stairs and take them back to my metal shop to use for my house. Those lovely risers, stringers and newels <3

(They probably shouldn't have welded that bottom tread back together but rather replaced it. And I hope they didn't toss the damaged handrail, the decorative piece can be salvaged and put onto the new ones).

7/16/2014 at 12:20 PM

What a shame... such a stunning beauty destroyed. Happy you at least got a great photo prior to the destruction.

Eco Chic Sense

7/16/2014 at 1:23 PM

This hurts my heart. Hope your letter helps!

Jan Hunyady
7/16/2014 at 1:46 PM

Isn't there ordinances or historic rules or SOMETHING to keep them from replacing that wonderful iron work with whatever that is?

What kind of craftsman would think that was worthy of getting paid? And why didn't they paint it? Wouldn't someone's insurance have paid for the repairs?

7/16/2014 at 3:13 PM

WOW! I'm sure the bank could have forced the driver's insurance to pay for full and proper restoration..... one wonders if maybe they did and then cheaped out and pocketed the difference. Good for you!

7/16/2014 at 4:31 PM

Ugh that's awful - I hope they get around to actually fixing it. Keep us posted. I have to say though, I love your stairs, at least those are beautiful.

7/16/2014 at 10:29 PM

Maybe it is a case of they really don't know who to call to fix it correctly and you were the answer to their prayers? It is possible!Alt smile Good on you for trying to help!

7/16/2014 at 11:40 PM

I'm surprised Old Town doesn't have historical preservation rules that would force them to restore those beautiful stairs...

7/17/2014 at 5:50 AM

That is such a shame for those beautiful stairs. If it's the bank I think it is, their VA headquarters are in Fairfax.

Jennifer Merkley
7/17/2014 at 11:40 AM
I'm having issues getting to the post. If I go to my bookmark, I can read to the unhide mark, but then it just sits and spins and never loads the rest of the post. If I click on the link here or click through my bookmark to try and load the post as it's own window, I'm being asked to log in again just like last week. http://my.jetscreenshot.com/demo/20140717-kj1s-364kb
Old Town Home
7/17/2014 at 4:15 PM
Sorry for the issue. You're right, this is the same thing as last week. I should have an update for the blog this weekend that will resolve the issue. Sorry for the inconvenience. For some reason, you're stuck in a weird middle ground where you're half way logged into the system. If you want to get by the screen now just fill out something in the "Username" field (in the left part of the form) to complete the signup.
Jennifer Merkley
7/17/2014 at 4:15 PM
tried that, it still won't let me in.
Old Town Home
7/17/2014 at 4:15 PM
Ah, I was worried about that. Okay, I should get an update out this weekend that will resolve it. It all comes down to content delivery network page caching and once the website shows you that screen that's all you get. I'll let you know when it's corrected.
Jennifer Merkley
7/17/2014 at 4:15 PM
thanks! appreciate the work.
7/17/2014 at 4:52 PM

I know that intersection and those stairs very well. Have you reported them to the City? I would imagine that the City is not very happy with their version of historic preservation.

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