By Chris Floyd, Landmark Inn Site Manager
A major historic preservation and renovation project is underway at Landmark Inn State Historic Site, an 1850s historic property and bed-and-breakfast under the stewardship of the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Among other things, the scope of work includes the restoration of several historic structures, the addition of accessible pathways for persons with disabilities, and the installation of other enhancements to improve visitors’ experiences. A new museum gallery exhibit and other interpretive features are also planned. This project marks the first major historic preservation work conducted on site since the 1970s and reflects the THC’s commitment to managing and protecting the state’s cultural resources and historic architecture while providing educational opportunities for the public.
The Landmark Inn was closed to the public in early 2014 to allow staff to prepare the site for the extensive work to be done. Almost everything inside the historic buildings had to be inventoried and removed for storage, including exhibits, furniture, file cabinets, linens, equipment, gift shop items, and office supplies. Many modern additions to the historic buildings were removed or demolished, leaving only the bare limestone walls and pine floors behind. The grounds were cleared of benches and landscape plantings to allow the contractors full access to the site and make way for new improvements.
The THC awarded the contract for this project to J.C. Stoddard Construction, which began work at Landmark Inn in early October 2014. Since then, the contractors have removed most of the plaster from the Vance Hotel, which revealed a thick limestone wall held together by soft mortar joints. The soft, old mortar in the joints between the stones has been chipped out and replaced with a new application of mortar. Soon, a new layer of plaster will be applied over the mortar and the limestone. After it dries, the plaster will then be whitewashed with a special protective coating to provide years of durability. All of this painstaking work must be done with hand tools only.
Another major element of work in this project is the restoration of the doors and windows, including the frames, sills, and sashes. Our goal is to preserve as much of the original wood as possible and replace it with the same type of wood, only if absolutely necessary. Being located on the exterior of the building, these wooden features have been exposed to the elements for more than a century, and some of the rotting, deteriorating wood had to be replaced. Most of the time, the contractors were able to use a special epoxy to fill the gaps where rotting wood had been removed. So far, the window frames on the Vance Hotel have been restored and the old wooden lintel above the front door replaced with one made of steel.
Various other tasks have also been completed, such as the installation of new plumbing and electrical conduits, the framing of a new kitchen and bath in the Vance House, and the repointing of the masonry on the Gristmill and the Bath House. Fortunately, the renovation project is on schedule and we hope that the major construction work will be finished by August 2015. The site should re-open a few months after that, if all goes well.
Visit the Landmark Inn Preservation photo gallery to see more photos of the preservation work in progress.