Published on August 8th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine0
A Mason’s Perspective
Patience, meticulous attention to detail are absolute hallmarks for masonry contractors on historic projects.
More often than not, the masonry element on a historical restoration is the most important – not to mention the most challenging and time-consuming – aspect of the entire project, especially from the aesthetic viewpoint.
It would reason to venture then that masonry contractors are required to ‘up their game’, so to speak from a technical, skill-honing standpoint when working on a delicate historical building. Long-time Utah masonry contractor Craig Child can attest to it.
Child is a Vice President of Springville- based Child Enterprises and a descendent from a long line of masons he said stretches back six generations to Thomas Child, an LDS convert from England who immigrated to Utah in the mid-1800s and actually quarried stone for the Salt Lake Temple. Historical work, he says, simply requires a higher level of expertise.
“With restoration work we almost have to develop a different kind of crew,” said Child. “They’re different from regular block and brick masons. You have to develop guys who have patience and are very detail-oriented with their work. Estimating is really tricky. With new construction you can base production rates on past jobs. With restoration, it’s job-specific and you have to break down individual tasks more thoroughly. A lot of problem solving is involved – you have to be creative to do these projects.”
Child credits his company’s approach and prowess in restoration/preservation work from his grandfather, Earl Child, who gained an interest in it working on
a Capitol Theater renovation and a Hotel Utah expansion in the early 70s. In fact, Child said his own career in masonry is in part due to his participation in the 90s on a bid to do exterior restoration work on perhaps the most iconic building in the state – the Salt Lake Temple.
“My brother Mike (also a Child VP) and I had just graduated high school and that (bid process) was a turning moment for me,” said Child. “I was considering being an architect and decided I’d rather do preservation and restoration work through the company. Restoration is something we’ve focused on for a long time. It started with grandfather, and my dad Richard (current company President) continued that work.”
The firm boasts an impressive project portfolio with a host of high-profile projects like the Utah State Capitol, the O.C. Tanner Headquarters (formerly the original Salt Lake Library), the Provo City Center Temple (formerly the LDS Provo Tabernacle), and most recently the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (formerly Hotel Utah), which earned a UC&D 2016 ‘Most Outstanding Project’ award in the masonry category.
Child said the JSM Building was unique in that it had two different sections – the original building which was completed in 1911, and a 1973 addition in which crews grouted the terra cotta solid, a practice that resulted in myriad cracking. Over 1,300 pieces of terra cotta were replaced, along with other elements.
The LDS Provo City Center Temple (UC&D’s ‘Project of the Year’ in 2015) was also incredibly distinctive in the yeoman- like effort it took from general contractor Jacobsen Construction of Salt Lake City and Child Enterprises to preserve as much of the original façade as possible after
a four-alarm fire gutted the building in December 2010.
“The main part of the façade was in good condition, but we had to rebuild gables and the top of walls, and whenever you rebuild on top of existing building, it’s scary trying to get a cohesive blend,” said Child. “We asked ourselves constantly if it would look obvious that the gables were new; we were nervous until the scaffolding came down before we could tell if it was a good match. It was a color range of four different colors and we had to blend materials to match the existing the best we could.”
On the O.C. Tanner HQ renovation, Child said it was “neat to do a full scope restoration on a building like that. The owners wanted to do everything they could to bring back all the components of that building. The final product shows how extensive the restoration was.”
The firm is currently doing some repointing work on the Governor’s mansion, a 100% repointing and some stone replacement on the St. George Tabernacle, and some masonry maintenance on the Logan Temple.
“On the Joseph Smith Memorial building three generations of our family have worked on it, so it’s neat to have that legacy,” he said. “It makes you want to do the best job you can on these buildings, for your ancestor’s sake.”