Depot pits new builders’ skills against old
The NCO Railroad Depot, constructed more than 100 years ago on East Fourth Street, last served passengers in 1937.
Pinecrest Construction is working to repurpose the old three-story brick building for a new generation of customers.
Chris Shanks and Brian Elcano, owners of neighboring Louis Basque Corner, are redeveloping the train depot into a distillery, brewery and restaurant, yet another important revitalization effort that’s helped transform many of the dilapidated properties on East Fourth Street over the past few years.
But it hasn’t been easy, says Ryan Pinjuv, project manager for Pinecrest Construction.
A former owner of the building had stripped the interior back to its original brick shell, so the owners more or less knew what they were getting into, Pinjuv says, but it’s still onerous bringing a building that aged up to code.
“The construction, the materials and methods they did back then as far as how they did lumber and timber, it was all cut on site,” he says. “In general everything foundation up has been great. The biggest problem is back then they didn’t do a lot of compaction, and the interior, a couple of columns and slabs had settled. But there was less things wrong with this building than we expected, which shows how well they built it.”
Pinecrest used its most experienced carpenters to lift the building three inches using jacks to obtain correct elevations — an extremely difficult process fraught with danger. Interior concrete floor slabs were removed so they could be replaced once the building was at its proper elevation.
The majority of existing interior and exterior woodwork is original, and while much if it is being refinished and reused, some of it had to be replaced. Master carpenter Kurt Christensen says it’s extremely difficult to remove and reinstall the delicate hand-nailed window moldings and door casings.
“They are actually kerfed into place — you cut slits on the back of the wood to get it to bend — so it’s a very time-consuming process,” he says. “Usually it would be steam-bent, but this is kerfed, which is very rare.”
The trick, Christensen adds, is seamlessly blending new finish materials with existing carpentry so customers never know the difference.
“I have been doing custom stuff for 26 years, and these old building don’t usually have this ornate woodwork, so it’s an honor to try and blend this stuff together — these were some of the best builders ever,” he says.
Another challenge: Coordinating delivery of the large hand-built whiskey still from its Italian manufacturer and the beer-brewing equipment from Canada.
“We had stuff from all over the world coming here to be part of this building,” Pinjuv says. “It was a lot of stuff to track.”
Perhaps the hardest part of the project, though, was figuring out how to redesign the property to best serve its new uses as well as its customers. With five simultaneous uses — bar, restaurant, brewery, distillery and offices — functionality was extremely important, Pinjuv says.
The Depot is more than 17,000 square feet spread over two buildings. A smaller building behind the main structure houses a cold room and alcohol fermenting and distilling equipment.
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