THE MASONRY MONTHLY
2005 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103 | 626-296-7700 | www.bostonbrick.com A Restoration in Death Valley Preserving Our Nation’s Historical Fabric SEPTEMBER 2017
I recently returned from a restoration job out at Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley. Yes, we worked on a project in Death Valley in the middle of summer. The project took off when we got a call from Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a company that manages a number of national parks around the country. They also manage several state parks and other resorts. They’re the people who run the hotels, gift shops, and other similar services within the park, with National Park Service oversight.
From there, we packed up and headed out to Death Valley. I loaded up some scaffolding planks on my own flatbed truck and made the journey on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Even better, I had no air conditioning. When we got to the Death Valley job site, we encountered our first major challenge (or second, if you’re me). Xanterra didn’t want to replace the roof of the inn. We had to design a punctureless scaffolding system that would allow us to work on the chimneys while preserving the existing roof. That took some serious skill, but it was all part of the job.
When Xanterra called us, they told us the chimneys at The Inn at Furnace Creek were not working and they wanted us to give them an assessment. The Inn at Furnace Creek was built in 1927 and has since been incorporated into the National Park Service. The historic inn is often referred to as the jewel of Death Valley. We went to the inn, inspected the chimneys, assessed the situation, and then gave Xanterra a full report — a binder chock-full of our recommendations. We also gave them our bid for the job. From there, we waited as they reviewed the binder and made a final decision.
Then there was the other major challenge: the temperature. Throughout the first two weeks we were out there, it routinely hit 127 degrees. The first week alone was setting up the scaffolding. It took 12 guys, and it was brutal. We had to work in the dead of night to get some hint of relief. We pushed ahead with a deadline of August 31. The general contractor, who we were working under, needed us out so they could begin work on other projects around the inn. Despite the challenges, we worked ahead of schedule and completed our restoration on August 11.
Eventually, we got the call. The job: Xanterra wanted us to fix the main chimney system. They wanted the chimneys working and safe. It was going to be a tough job because of limited access, high temperatures, and very strict safety standards — absolutely everything had to be OSHA compliant — but I knew the Boston Brick & Stone team was up to the task. Just before we got the call for Death Valley job, we had finished up a job at Bryce Canyon National Park. It was another job completed under the watchful eye of the National Park Service. In Bryce Canyon, we worked on chimneys that had been decimated by the elements. We’re talking freezing temperatures 350 days a year, and when you add moisture to the mix, you have stone’s worst enemy. It was a mess, but the restoration went beautifully.
It was an honor and a privilege to work on The Inn at Furnace Creek. Really, it’s an honor to work on any project in a national park. A lot of people consider these parks our nation’s crown jewels, and to have the opportunity to preserve history means so much. Boston Brick & Stone was chosen for the job at Death Valley because, as far as I’m aware, we’re the only company that’s mastered all aspects of chimney restoration. We have the technology and the know-how. Plus, we have the ability to get 15 guys out to a remote area to do some complicated work. That’s the thing. When you’re working in a national park, you’re not simply doing a repair. You are restoring and preserving the historical fabric of the park and of the country. We’re there to ensure the stonework looks like it did
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