When asked about the Red Antiquities Building, Sean Cote nods his head with enthusiasm. “Sure, I knew the house,” he says as he recalls driving past the big red building year after year. “I remember seeing that antique sign rotting away and the old dusty mirror in the window.” A big smile spreads across his face. “I never thought I’d be a part of bringing it back to life,” he says. “What a great experience.” Sean has been involved with the Red Antiquities Building project since its very beginnings. He reminisces over the things he’s seen over the last year and speaks of the historic significance of the property. Words like beautiful and significant pepper his descriptions of the staircase, the walkway arch, the original doors, all things that have been meticulously restored. “I’ve never worked on a restoration project before,” he says. “There’s a proper technique to everything we’ve done and that can be very challenging”
Tall and clean cut, with a perpetual boyish grin, Sean is a good natured man who has the perfect combination of easy going charm and a strong work ethic. He is no stranger to challenging experiences either. Growing up in London, he learned very early on the value of a dollar as well as the value of a hard day’s work. “If I wanted something, I earned it.” he says. “That’s something my parents always taught me.” From his first paper route at seven years old to picking rocks out of his neighbour’s field, Sean has approached each and every challenge head on. “Oh, I’ve done just about everything,” he recalls. “Retail, dishwashing, landscaping, you name it. I just didn’t find anything that fit.” Hired by a well known London company to deliver drywall, Sean found himself fascinated by the work being done all around him and quickly realized he’d found his calling. “The other delivery guys would be taking breaks, but I’d be watching the construction crew, asking questions, seeing if I could help out.”
Once his eyes were opened to this new found interest, he didn’t look back. Over the last few years, he’s gained experience framing houses, apartment buildings and working with concrete as well as earning certificates in heavy machinery and specific truck driving licenses. After moving around from Kitchener, to Sarnia and everywhere in between, he found himself across the table from a Job Developer at Pathways Skill Development Centre. It was during this meeting that the Red Antiquities Building was mentioned. Sean jumped at the chance to be part of such an important and meaningful project. “This has been so much fun to work on,” he says. “But it’s definitely hard work,” he adds. “Before rebuilding the foundation, we were out there, in the freezing cold last winter digging under the house from one end to the other so they could slide beams underneath,” he says. “It was tough but I learned so much.” Sean has been part of each and every step of the restoration and has watched the slow progression with a genuine sense of pride. “I have a new appreciation for this old building,” he says. “There was no insulation in the original walls. Can you imagine how cold it must have been back then?” Sean explains how far we’ve come in terms of building structures like these: “Now, we just slap the drywall on there and pull out the nail gun,” he says. “When I started with the project, I saw walls made with little two inch strips of board, every single one nailed in and every gap filled with plaster. It must have been a ten day job just to finish one wall.” He speaks of pulling out chunks of this hundred year old plaster – complete with horse hairs. “They put horse hair in the plaster to make it stronger and it must have worked,” he says. “because all that plaster was still intact after a century.”
Among other things, Sean was part of the team responsible for replicating the siding, those big red boards that have come to represent the very nature of the building itself. “It was a big job,” he says. “We took each of those boards, cut them just right, filled all the holes, sanded them down and painted them that bright, shining red.” he remembers. “It was a great feeling seeing them all go up onto the house, knowing I’d made them myself.” he says. That was one of many learning experiences presented to Sean during the course of this project. “This is such a great opportunity for me,” he explains. “Everybody here has a different background but they’re an easy bunch of guys to get along with. We work really well together.”
Although Sean is committed to seeing this project through to completion he has an exciting opportunity waiting for him when he’s done. Due to his experience and skill, he was recently recruited to join a construction crew in Edmonton, Alberta and is slated to leave in the beginning of May. “It’s another chance for me to learn and to grow,” he says. This is a true brand new start for a young family as Sean’s girlfriend, a registered nurse, and their 18 month old baby boy prepare to embark on a new adventure..
“I’m so thankful for this awesome opportunity,” he says. “I will definitely keep in touch with all these guys.”
We hope he does.