Rockhill Iron and Coal Company Post Office, Robertsdale, PA
The Friends of the East Broad Top purchased the old Rockhill Iron and Coal company Post Office in 1987. Our goal is to turn what was a derelict shell into a habitable building once again, and to restore the structure to its EBT era appearance. This has been a long term project and has suffered a number of delays and setbacks. However the pace of work done on the building is now picking up as we are about to enter the final phase of renovations and restoration. Much of the contracted work that has been done, has been made possible with contributions, interest free loans and grants that the FEBT has secured.
The RI&C Robertsdale Old Post Office is one of the four buildings that made up the original Rockhill Iron & Coal "Company \ Square" in Robertsdale. The other three buildings are the EBT Station (owned by the FEBT), the Company Office (now functioning as the Robertsdale Post Office) and the Company Store (demolished). The Old Post Office is is planned as the permanent home for the FEBT Robertsdale museum, currently housed in the EBT Robertsdale station, and as storage for our extensive collections of EBT artifacts, memorabilia, paper and other items now currently stored in various places.
When the FEBT acquired the structure, the Old Post Office building had stood derelict for a number of years. A such it was very much a wreck with boarded up windows, flooded crawlspace, collapsed floor and inoperable plumbing and heating systems.
From 1996 through 1998 the basic structure was renovated to the point where, by 1999, the building was safe for limited use and in no danger of collapse. Work done in 1999 and 2000 mostly consisted of finishing up the exterior of the building, as well as some limited work on the basic structure of the interior.
By 2001 the FEBT realized that a more detailed site plan for the museum complex was required. Due to unavoidable delays, this plan was not completed until late 2003. 2004 work involved structural repairs to the floors and interior partitions of the second floor as work got underway to prepared the final drawings and specifications required to obtain a building permit to complete the restoration of this historic building and the renovations required to turn it into our permanent museum building and collections repository.
Aside from a small side project to repair damage to the building caused by hurrican Ivan in 2004, most of the period from 2004 to 2006 was spent developing the detailed drawings and specifications required. Early 2007 saw the approval of the plans by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Historic Preservation which cleared the way to obtain the necessary building permits to begin the final work. This work is finally underway in late 2007 with the installation of new electrical wiring in the building.
During April and May, wall coverings applied during the later occupation of the Old Post Office were stripped from the walls to reveal the original wall coverings. Volunteers cleaned up debris from the collapsed floor in the 'Barber Shop' portion of the building; documented and removed the second floor balcony on the west wall, removed wires, cables, drain pipes and other attachments on the exterior walls faces, removed toilet fixtures, the furnace and heating system piping and substituted translucent protective covers on the boarded-over windows.
In June, July and August, work crews removed the radiators, most of the knob-and-tube electrical wiring and additional piping, verified the part of the underground conduit used to discharge runoff from the getters to the storm sewer, removed rotted flooring and joists from the ground floor of the building (except the area under the stairs), and continued efforts to make the Post Office ready for the structural repairs to be performed by contractors.
Structural, roofing and drainage work were completed this year. This included the installation of a french drain around the exterior of the building, regrading and a new cement slab poured in the crawl space, new roof and gutter installation, repairs to the fascia and soffit boards, window repair or rebuilding, and staircase and sub-flooring installation.
Flooring was installed and finished and the heating and cooling systems installed. Exterior work included completion of window, door and balcony repairs and addition of storm windows to the first floor. Contractors installed water and sewer stubs and lines for hookups to the new Wood-Broad Top-Wells Joint Municipal Authority water system.
Most exterior restoration work was completed with some painting and finish work on the windows, doors and balcony and addition of storm windows to the second floor. Final connection of sewer and water stubs to building lines was also completed.
At the last 1999 Robertsdale work session on October 30, FEBT member-volunteers William Adams and William E. Grant, Jr., installed a test aluminum threshold plate in the main exterior doorway and retractable interior door sweeps on the other three first-floor exterior doors of the Old Post Office. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the door sweeps this winter, but we already plan to install similar thresholds in the other three doorways when work sessions resume at Robertsdale this year. Bill and Bill also installed temporary weather-stripping and seals around all second floor windows and all exterior doors to ready the building for winter.
In December Huntingdon contractor Rex A. Smith performed maintenance and minor repairs to the roof and gutters of the Old Post Office. The cost of this work was $378.00.
In the Post Office we made minor repairs to windows and the balcony railing; completed stripping the paint from the exterior door onto the balcony and sanded, primed, and applied two coats of exterior gray paint to the door; removed loose paint and rust from the exterior of the metal door into the read addition and applied two coals or rust- resistant gray paint to the door; installed metal thresholds and door molding with weather stripping in all four first-floor exterior doorways; filled imperfections, sanded, and applied the first two coats of enamel floor paint to the interior wood staircase; and used treated lumber to construct temporary frames to keep soil and debris out of the surface drains in the front and rear of the Post Office lot. In November we sealed the building for winter, but we may apply more paint and varnish to the staircase in December.
Our planning continues for raising the funds needed to underwrite the next major stages of work on our current restoration projects, but in the meantime there are several short-term items of work we would like to initiate this year if the necessary funds are available.
We need to have a new survey made of the entire museum site, incorporating the depot into the site plan we obtained several years ago for the old post office property. The new site plan would allow us to develop the additional improvements needed for the museum site and illustrate these improvements to prospective funding agencies.
Reproduction storms and screens were fabricated by our contractor who also inspected and repaired shingles damaged by last winter's heavy snow and ice. FEBT work crews installed these storms and screens over the summer.
The revised site plan for the museum complex, which had been commissioned in 2002 was finally completed in September after many delays including the weather and the untimely passing of the surveyor originally commissioned to do the work.
The focus of our 2004 work sessions was repairing the tongue–and–groove second floor, straightening and repairing the interior wall framing and installing blocking and fire stops to meet current building and safety codes. Volunteer crews also repaired and repainted the exterior doors.
Our work on the restoration of the old post office building suffered a setback in late 2004 when Hurricane Ivan came through town and flooded Trough Creek. The resultant water backed up into the post office causing the 1st floor to warp and buckle.
After Ivan came through, a new sump pump was installed in the crawl space under the building, the water damaged insulation was removed and repairs were begun to damaged ductwork.
Contracted repairs to the flood damaged first floor were completed early in 2005
Aside from minor work on the building during the year, most of the emphasis this year was on developing the proper plans and specification to enable FEBT to successfully apply for the necessary permits to complete the final stage of the restoration facilities. Because of the nature of some of the funding for this project, it is necessary for us to work with agencies such as the Pennsylvania Bureau of Historic Preservation to ensure that restoration follows accepted architectural and historic preservation and restoration policies and guidelines..
Most of this year was occupied with our contracted architect drawing up the final plans and specifications for our application for a building permit to finish the final phase of the Old Post Office restoration.
In January, the Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation reviewed and approved the revised drawings and specifications for the final phase of our rehabilitation of the old post office building
During the March work session, FEBT volunteers replaced the supports for insulation installed in the second–floor ceiling. Volunteers also started preparing the joists on the second floor of the post office for installation of the new ceiling.
Late in the year, contracted electric repairs got underway as the first portion of the final phase of the Old Post Office restoration. It has been a long hard road, but work is finally underway.