Renovation of The RoundHouse

After an award winning design by local architects, Johnson - Troillett, owners Jon and Twyla Pease, acting as their own General Contractor, began construction in 2001. Because the structure resided within the Historic District of Eureka Springs, every step of the restoration had to be approved by the Historic District Commission. According to Twyla Pease, "We took on the burden of acting as our own General Contractor, using well known Prime Subcontractors, because we had in mind who we wanted to actually build our new RoundHouse: Sam Utter, a local craftsman".

The first stage was a six month project of demolition. We found our limestone walls incapable of holding the weight of our project, even though we had preservationist stone mason, Bruce Wright repair and tuck point the entire surface. We wanted to preserve the walls so we gutted the structure completely—removing the roof, all the way down to bedrock. Here we found what so many building owners in Eureka Springs have discovered—a miniature river running out of the earth below Hillside Avenue,

1996 RoundHouse with For Sale sign

through our property, and continuing beneath Highway 23, (Main Street). We had engineers propose ways to shape the flow and exit it through piping underneath the street and into the open storm drain. After a very ingenious floating basement concrete floor was poured, we were ready to start up with our steel. Four continuous steel columns were bolted to concrete piers under the basement floor and continued up to the peak of the new roof. Steel girders were tied into our limestone walls at the various floor levels. One of the hardest parts of the design was floor level placement so that the existing window openings were usable for each floor. Of course, we ended with some floors fourteen feet apart and others sixteen or eighteen, but the result is as beautiful as it is respectful of the original architecture.

After the exciting steel erection was complete, reconstruction was ready to begin. Our General Contractor was very good; however, one detail was greatly overlooked—Eureka Springs is a tourist town and ever increasing traffic came in groups walking through the construction project offering advice and asking questions. Even some of our locals were guilty of the same thing, but who could blame them? This was an exciting project! After the Project Superintendent, Sam Utter, told Twyla he was through losing hair over the interruptions, we found ways to close off most of the work. Incase any readers are wondering, Sam, along with two carpenters and one helper completely built the RoundHouse, with the exception of Roofers, Electrical, HVAC, Plumbing, and Tile work.

The first signs of going over budget were the installation of so many new Pella windows. In trying to keep the warehouse theme alive in our design, we used 1880's style factory windows all around the top story. Pella did a great job supplying us with all 47 windows, many of which were custom made.

After reviewing many historical photos, we decided to recreate the connection to the Ozarka Bottling plant next door, now the Brownstone Inn. We had Bruce Wright's crews build a limestone wall from the RoundHouse to the side of the Brownstone Inn. Many thanks go to the owners of the Brownstone Inn, Gary and Rosalie Andrews, for allowing an easement on their property for the sake of history.

The neighbors were again eager to observe one cold winter morning when a concrete snorkel truck obstructed Hillside Avenue. This concrete was used to cover the first floor on top of the radiant heating tubes inside the floor. The entire RoundHouse is heated with hot water using forced air delivery on all four floors but with radiant heat on the first floor which is the owner's townhouse. We have found that with the two story library and the stairwell penetrations of the conference level floor that the heat from the first floor will heat the conference level also. The rest of the HVAC plan was to isolate the office and studio on the third floor with its own heating and cooling. This was accomplished with a heat pump and more convection from hot water. With these eighteen inch limestone walls, the two new efficient boilers paid for themselves by their second winter of operation. We even got "free" hot water all winter long.

Finally it was time for Sam and his crew to begin the "fun" part of the project—all the wainscoting on all floors, wall covering on all of the conference level, and the finish carpentry of the cupola to begin in earnest. Except for the alder wood and cherry used on the first floor and studio, we didn't know what to use on the conference level. After "googling" around on the internet, we found a whole container load of African mahogany in Little Rock. Though it was only finished on two sides, Sam said he could make it work. He got new planner knives and a new table model sander and proceeded to work. Now we have the most beautiful two story conference level ever seen—the craftsmanship is superb.

It was now time for the stairs. The architects scratched their heads. So did engineers out of Springfield. How would we ever get all four floors connected with curved staircases? One day we were talking to the young man who had welded the outside catwalks if he had any ideas. Darrell Weaver went home and two days latter showed up with a sketch and said he could do it! And did he ever. The design was a perfect match to our factory architectural theme and our inside and outside catwalks. Plus it was OHSA correct. With maple treads and cherry handrails, these stairs are a beautiful act of completion to the RoundHouse.

Nearing the end of the project, we needed an internet bar in the conference center. Jon had been drying various types of wood at his farm for future woodworking projects and brought walnut, ash and cherry woods to Sam to see if it would work. Sam milled it out and built it. If you have ever seen more perfect miters anywhere, let us know. We now had the final piece of the conference center in place.

With the HDC approved and original style doors in place, there was one last thing that had to be done on this restoration of the RoundHouse. A year before the project began Twyla had gotten a call from Beau Satori, and Beau has said that he had a piece of history from the original roundhouse. What she was able to obtain was the original fleur d'lis that once stood at the peak of the roof. Once again, it stands as it should.

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