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.