We’ve taken some exciting steps in the last 6 months to begin restoring Stevenson Hall, the home base we purchased last year on the Historic Sheldon Jackson Campus. This wonderful building has already served for four years as home for the Sitka guest artists and as our administrative building. To stabilize it, maximize the space for our mission, and ensure the building can continue to aid us in our mission, there is quite a bit of work to do. The first step is underway: to remove the 5″ slope we had in the floors and bring the building back to its original 1910 level.

Last spring, we worked with a structural engineer to considering several approaches to the work. Ultimately our expert team recommended drilling helical piers. In mid-July, after our summer programs concluded, work began on the foundation. Prep work was accomplished in late July, including clearing portions of the first floor rooms and hallways, moving electric baseboard heaters, cutting holes in the floorboards to provide direct access from the first floor to the crawl space below, and moving/removing any electrical/plumbing components under the building which would have interfered with installing the piers. In early August, the helical piers were drilled and support beams have been installed. The most stressful part of the project occurred at the middle of the building’s original central support beam. This involved using six jacks, which were supporting the center of the building in four different directions, to lift the building several inches so that several layers of wood and a cement pier supporting this part of the building could be removed, drilling two piers, lifting the new beam onto its brackets and bolting it into place, raising the bracket and beam so that the pier was supporting both sides of the original beam, and then drilling one more pier.

The lifting of the building was accomplished through the brackets, which not only support the beams but also can be used to lift the beams. The lifting can be done at any time, and our expert team continues to make occasional minor lifts to this day. The building is currently within 1” of level through the main corridor.

Over a century of use and renovations later, we’ve inherited quite a large undertaking to transform Stevenson Hall into the building of our dreams. A team of former Board Members (James Steffen and Don Surgeon), plus Civil Engineer and current board member Dan Jones continues to monitor the progress of the construction, noting that the floor should be completely level by the time the 2016 summer festival begins.

According to long-time Festival supporter Galen Paine, “history already gives the hall a special tone,” and we are excited for the physical and cosmetic improvements to come.  We are deeply grateful for assistance from the Murdock Charitable Trust and the National Park Service – Department of the Interior (with assistance from the State of Alaska Office of History and Archaeology) for the financial support and guidance they provided for this important first improvement.