According to City statistics, 30,000 vehicles pass by the Red Antiquities Building every day. The occupants of those vehicles are witnessing a transformation of commitment and dedication that has fortified a building long weathered by a multitude of elements. Standing in the shadows of the R.A.B. is an individual whose life has paralleled the story of the building in many ways and whose strength and determination is just as enduring.
Tim Baker was born in Montreal and spent a short time in Nova Scotia before moving to London where most of his formative years have been spent. Tim went to Sir George Ross Secondary school but admits a lot of his education has been rooted in the elements of Landscaping, a career he has enjoyed immensely for 26 years.
Tim started with the Red Antiquities Building in November of 2011 and came to the project having endured and overcome some significant health challenges. As the Red Antiquities Building started to enjoy rejuvenation, both physically and symbolically, so did Tim as he put on the work boots and hard hat. Tim confides, “I’m not here for the reason most would think. Mine’s not the typical story!” Tim outlines with passion the 26 years of “doing anything and everything in horticulture” and the journey that found him having to take a medical leave from the literal field that he loves so much. “I’m not one to sit around much. I love physical labour. So, when I was ready to return to work I went to Pathways and they told me about the Red Antiquities Building. Through the years I’ve had my share of work in construction . . . Dad always taught me not to put everything I do into one trade! And so when I heard about the R.A.B. it seemed like a good job until the warmer weather came around again and I could return to landscaping.” Under the sunny warm skies of an extraordinary March day, Tim beams with pride when detailing that his plan to return to horticulture comes into fruition when he begins a new landscaping job next month.
While Tim’s hard work, dedication and commitment will be missed at the R.A.B, what won’t be overlooked is the impact he has had on the Red Antiquities Building. Reflecting upon his time spent restoring and renovating this historic wooden building in the heart of SoHo, Tim nods his head repetitively, “A lot of scraping and stripping trim and a lot of painting. But I was happy to do it! I really just wanted to get back to work and now I’ve been a part of something really important. This building has come a long way and I really think it’s good for the City and its infrastructure to save our old buildings!”
It would be easy for the average person to complain about the painstaking task of restoring trim and frame from a building that has seen 138 years and multiple layers of paint. However, Tim’s strong and determined demeanor has garnered a lot of respect from his coworkers. R.A.B. Site Supervisor Barry Primak says, “He’s a hard worker! He’s done an incredible job on everything asked of him!” Tim concedes that his experience in landscaping and horticulture has instilled within him a strong work ethic that includes being a “perfectionist” and the ability to implement “great hand eye detail.”
Tim’s excellent attention to detail is perhaps best evident in the work he employed in restoring the Transom window above the main residence door at the RAB. Tim spent many hours in the confines of the cold basement of the building working on the window. “That took a lot of hours patiently heating, stripping and sanding the framing!” While the job required a great deal of meticulous attention, the heat gun required to do the job provided a welcomed source of heat in the dead of winter and the resulting restoration will be certain to warm the hearts of many who will enjoy the beautiful Transom window for years to come.
Looking to the future, Tim is excited to embark on his return as a Landscaper and speaks with tremendous pride about the fact that he’s only a few courses away from obtaining his Certification as a Horticultural Technician. When asked about personal dreams and desires, one topic in particular stands out. “Before I die I want to do two things: Go to B.C. and drive an Excavating Spider. If you don’t know what an excavating spider is just Google it! It’s an amazing piece of equipment that will just blow your mind!” For Tim who has experience operating large machinery, like Bobcats and Backhoes, the thought of operating an Excavating Spider creates a look upon his face similar to that of a kid on Christmas morning! “Given the chance, I’d do whatever it takes to operate an Excavating Spider and if it’s going to happen it would be in British Columbia. That’s pretty much the only place you’ll find an Excavating Spider in Canada.” For now, Tim is happy to spend his time away from work “with my daughter who is just a little over a year old. I love just hanging out with her!”
“I’ve met a lot of good people here. It’s been great helping to restore the R.A.B. and I’d love to tour through it when it’s all done and finished! It’s come such a long way!” The success of the Red Antiquities Building is due in large part to the countless hours put in by skilled workers like Tim Baker, doing fine, detailed work that will be admired for years to come. Without the commitment and dedication that Tim has exercised, day in and day out, the project wouldn’t have grown and blossomed the way it has to date! We have been fortunate to have the talents of Tim Baker and wish him much success as he begins his new job. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll be able to post a picture of Tim operating an Excavating Spider!
~ Greg Yarker