The East Ward School was built around the turn of the century and served as a schoolhouse for the town of Gas City, Indiana, for around 85 years. In 2004, it was rescued from the wrecking ball by the Gas City Historical Society; soon after, it was converted into senior apartments and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although the building has been in continuous operation as senior apartments since 2006, many deficiencies in the building envelope existed, and, over time, had advanced to a point where they needed to be addressed if the owners intended to keep the building in operation. The slate roof was at the end of its life, and multiple attempts to repair it had been unsuccessful due to its advanced age and the overall brittleness of the slate. The owners found that repair attempts caused more problems than they solved and became more and more expensive as they progressed. Eventually, the owner simply spread large sheets of plastic in the attic space in an attempt to control the leaks.
Martin Riley Architects/Engineers were able to get a shingle roof designed to mimic the original slate roof approved by the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
Many of the defining masonry features of the building had also fallen into disrepair. We addressed everything from fallen arches and bulging pilasters to cracked masonry lintels and cornice deterioration. The masonry restoration portion of the project was extensive and represented more than half of the total project budget.
Another challenge was that a third of the apartments in the building were below grade and had water infiltration issues at the foundation. This was caused by a lack of properly installed subsurface drainage that was further complicated by a utility tunnel that ran underground from the original mechanical building into the school at the basement level. This tunnel had prevented the western side of the building from ever being properly drained and effectively trapped water on that side of the building. Once the tunnel was removed, proper slope of drainage was achieved, which—along with waterproofing at the foundation walls—greatly improved the below-grade apartments.
Overall, this project was very challenging, but the restoration process was able to greatly improve the quality of the apartments these seniors call home.