Volunteers help fix wall at Conover

By Vinde Wells

A century-old building in Oregon is getting some much-needed repairs thanks to its owner and a brand new volunteer organization.

Lou VanderWyst, owner of Conover Square, and Rick Ryland, a board member of Hands On Oregon, spent the day before Christmas shoring up the sagging south side of the former piano factory on the bank of the Rock River.

Bundled up against a brisk winter wind, the two spent the day cutting new 2×4 studs and reinforcing the framework of the wall.

“We’re addressing the most serious part of the wall by putting in new studs,” Ryland said.

“This area is the worst because at one time a loading dock was added here,” VanderWyst said. “That let the moisture get in.”

The walls were originally brick, he said, but those were removed and asphalt shingles were applied to the exterior walls. Then stucco was put on top of that.

Moisture got between the layers and caused deterioration of the underlying structure, Ryland said.

Most of the damage is at the bottom of the wall where the moisture collected, causing the wall to bulge.

After the bowed-out south side of Conover Square became a topic of growing local concern in recent months, Hands On Oregon (HOO) members Ryland and Jeff Hallock decided to do something to help fix it.

The not-for-profit was formed with the purpose of enriching the lives of Oregon citizens through local caring and creating excitement through volunteerism.

Ryland and Hallock met with VanderWyst and decided to make Conover Square HOO’s first project.

“We think Conover is important to this community and is well worth saving,” Ryland said.

Sharon Wallace, co-director of the Lifeline Food Pantry located at Conover, agreed.

“If Conover doesn’t exist, Lifeline can’t afford the rent in the downtown,” she said.

Other merchants at Conover would likely face the same issue, she said.

Wallace is also now a member of the Hands On Oregon board along with Ryland and Hallock.

When HOO offered it assistance, VanderWyst had already shored up the inside of the south wall with jacks and was doing what he could to deal with the problem.

However, he said, because only about half the space available for businesses is currently full, the rent he receives is insufficient to cover his costs, such as the mortgage, natural gas and electricity, taxes, and insurance, and still have enough left over to live on.

That leaves little for making extensive repairs.

To save money, VanderWyst does all the janitorial work and maintenance on the 125,000 square-foot building.

“We’re a one-man show,” he said with a grin.

That’s where HOO came in, providing manpower and funding.

HOO has partnered with the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council to use its 501c3 (not-for-profit) credentials while working to get their own.

The HOO board is seeking donations and volunteer labor for the south wall project.

Ryland hopes to raise $100,000 through donations to finish the wall.

“Some donations have already come in, and that’s why we were able to start,” he said.

The project entails taking off the stucco and shoring up the studding, then insulating the wall and sheeting it with plywood, covered with metal siding.

The plan calls for leaving a three-inch gap between the plywood and metal to absorb and trap solar energy, making the building more efficient to heat.

The finishing touch will be a mural on the outside of the wall with an American flag painted on the eastern third, a large vertical sun dial in the middle, and on the west end a large heart with the word Oregon in capital letters underneath.

The west part of the wall will also be a place for donors to be recognized for helping to preserve Conover Square.

Their names and logos will be displayed on spaces reflecting the amount of their donations.

The two-story building with a full basement started as the Schiller Piano Company in 1890.

It remained in operation until 1971.

To contribute to Hands on Oregon, make checks payable to Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and on the memo line write Hands On Oregon.

Checks can be mailed to Hands on Oregon, PO Box 244, Oregon IL 61061.

All contributions are tax deductible.



For the full article click here: http://www.oglecountynews.com/2015/12/28/volunteers-help-fix-wall-at-conover/aqjaj5g/?page=1

Published: Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 2:34 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 2:57 p.m. CST


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