Posted by: wadahp | November 3, 2009


Eight students invested three days in the second story of one of the oldest buildings in downtown Ritzville learning the proper techniques for wood window rehabilitation during a workshop Oct. 14-16 sponsored by the Ritzville Center for Historic Preservation Trades a project of the Ritzville Public Development Authority (RPDA).
The workshop was the first of its kind in the rural Eastern Washington city 60 miles West of Spokane along Interstate 90.
Future preservation workshops are planned as the RPDA moves ahead with its mission to restore the city’s economy. The RPDA’s project aims to provide expert training in the construction trades with an emphasis on historic preservation. The City of Ritzville’s historic downtown serves as a perfect learning laboratory. A significant number of vintage buildings here need skilled, detail-oriented craftsmen with a working knowledge of building preservation.
Six of the students were from the Ritzville area. Two others came from Spokane and Port Townsend.
Instruction was conducted in the Spanger Building, built in 1898. The building’s main floor houses Designer Carpets and Interiors. The rest of the two-story structure is vacant.
Kevin Palo led the workshop— an introduction to wood window restoration. He taught students about the key components of the windows, how the windows operated, learning to notice differences between windows, fix corners, replace glass, re-hang weights, etc.
“The one thing I liked about this is seeing how someone else does things,” said Courtnie Crane, whose tuition was paid by Modern Builders of Ritzville.
Palo, who is well known in the field of historic restoration, rehabilitation and architectural millwork as well as a consultant and fabricator of period restoration work, noted that additional workshops for wood window restoration would work well in Ritzville.
“You have quite a few people interested in this here,” Palo said during the workshop. “I think there’s a lot of potential here for more (workshops).”  While discussing the current workshop parameters, most of the students voiced interest in future workshops, such as concrete restoration, brick and mortar, plaster, doors.
The Center’s first preservation trades workshop was based on a model of the building owner paying for supplies while students do the labor. Each student pays tuition, which covers the instructor fees.
The Ritzville Historic Preservation Commission supported the project with funds for the instructor, which is part of the advisory group’s budget under professional services.
“We’re calling this our pilot workshop,” said RPDA board member Ann Olson. “This is the culmination of, for me eight years of dreaming, for the RPDA five years of work.”
The RPDA hopes to secure corporate sponsorships for future workshops to help defray workshop and instructor costs, according to Olson.
The concept of using buildings as a classroom was originally envisioned in 2001. Olson started calling around, looking for existing programs that utilized the concept.
In 2004, she pitched the idea to the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED) – now the Department of Commerce. That same year, an advisory board was formed.
CTED funded a feasibility study and a marketing study, both of which were completed by the Washington State University Interdisciplinary Design Institute.
“There are at least four other (programs/workshops) now that weren’t around when we started,” Olson continued. “What this means for Ritzville is this is an educational opportunity. It is economic development because we’re bringing people into the community, spending money – staying in motels, eating in restaurants. It is preservation of our downtown because we are using the buildings as our lab.”
Palo echoed Olson’s comments. “My grandfather was one of the last certified master carpenters. I learned from my grandfather as a little kid… We didn’t revive the trades,” he continued, referring to the workshops, “we saved the trades. Now we are the ones getting older. Once we’re gone, if we don’t get somebody, it will be gone.”
(The Ritzville Public Development Authority was created by the Ritzville City Council in 2004 and is a quasi-municipal agency. The organization is committed to the active pursuit of economic development opportunities to create economic diversity, increased prosperity and community well-being for the City of Ritzville.)



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