23. March 2012 · Comments Off on Meet The Crew: Tim Baker · Categories: Latest News

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

Nick Mollica started with the Red Antiquities Building Project on June 6, 2011.  Born and raised in London, Nick is a graduate of Saunders Secondary School where he completed a Co-op program and was hired out of that program as a Roof Truss Assembler.  The experience Nick gained through his High-school Co-op and the resulting job confirmed in his mind that he wanted to pursue a career working with his hands in Construction and Craftsmanship.  This desire led Nick to Fanshawe College where he completed Fanshawe’s Construction and Cabinetry program.   

Sitting across from me, at a picnic table located on the construction site, Nick nods his head with confidence, “I really believe I was born to be a Carpenter.  I learned a lot at Fanshawe and just needed that first job to get that on-site experience.  I really didn’t know a whole lot about the Red Antiquities Building.  I answered the ad looking for skilled work and was hired shortly after!” 

On a project that has largely been focused on saving the historic Red Antiquities Building and giving the building a second chance, in Nick we see that the project is doing so much more and giving recent graduates of skilled trade programs their “first chance.”

Nick put on his hard-hat and set foot on the R.A.B. site shortly after the building had been moved onto its newly poured concrete foundation.  Nick’s first major task involved removing the wood siding to begin restoration of the 138 year old wood.  The ensuing discovery that most of the wood siding was in grave enough condition and it couldn’t be restored began a process that would afford Nick the opportunity not many young men of his age get to experience.  The decision was made to replicate the construction of the exterior siding and Nick became a crucial part of the wood planing, routing and hand-crafting, replicating the tongue and groove craftsmanship of 138 years ago.  “Replicating the siding was a fun experience.  It takes a lot of work and effort to take a piece of wood and turn it into siding.  This building really is hand-made!”

As the replication of the siding neared completion, Nick turned to what he sees as his greatest achievement on the Red Antiquities Project thus far.  With an eye for fine detail and a great deal of patience and ingenuity, Nick began restoring the building’s original window frames.  The window frames had been dedicated as one of the key architectural features of the R.A.B. and both Heritage Supporters and the greater community alike had hoped restoration of the frames would be possible.  “It was a long process of stripping and filling the windows.  Those windows were well constructed and painstakingly put together so that they would never come apart. You have to have patience to deal with all of the intricate detail, the tricky manipulation, secret nails and the art of doweling.  It took a lot of time and a lot of learning on the go but I know they picked the right guy to do the job!”  Nick quickly became known as “The Window Guy” and delights in the fact that when the frames were reinstalled many of those who passed by the building thought the frames were new and not original.  “It makes me feel like I carried on the work of the original woodworker more than a hundred years ago . . . like I’ve been a part of history!”

Looking above the windows and just below the roof, the charm of the decorative dentils on the Red Antiquities Building also had to be restored.  Once again, Nick played a key role in the restoration process.  “We carefully removed and restored all of the dentils but there was a small section in such bad shape it just couldn’t be restored.  So we had to replicate that section.  I’m very proud of the fact that when you look up there you can’t tell where that replicated section is . . . that tells me I’m really doing what I know I was born to do!”

It’s clear that Nick has a passion for the trade that runs deep within him, but when asked what the Red Antiquities Building means to him he sits back and carefully thinks for a few moments.  “It means a lot of things.  It makes me feel proud to say I worked here and really helped to change a community.  You hear all of the great comments from the community and you know you’ve made a difference.”  Reflecting upon the age of the building and its link to the past a smile comes upon Nick’s face as he talks about how happy his Grandfather is knowing Nick is part of such an important project.  “It is a second chance for the building but for me I’ll look back at it as the place where I discovered my skill-set and got that valuable hands on experience that everyone needs when they graduate college.  I’ve also learned a lot from the experienced skill set guys on the crew.  A lot of the things I’ve learned here I know I’ll take and transfer to my next job!”

What does the future hold for Nick who is a big sports fan and has been in a team environment playing on Baseball, Soccer and Hockey teams? “I’d love to work construction and renovation projects to build on the skills I’ve learned at the R.A.B.  I have so much more confidence now and I know I can walk onto a job site and believe that I can do the job required of me.”

For years to come, many will look at the Red Antiquities Building and marvel at the strength and beauty of its wooden construction.  The R.A.B.’s new lease on life not only preserves a part of London’s history but it also provides for a beginning of new stories, skills and careers.  We’re glad to be a part of Nick Mollica’s story and thank Nick for adding yet another great chapter to the rich history of the Red Antiquities Building!

~ Greg Yarker

08. March 2012 · Comments Off on Meet The Crew: Jim Dinn · Categories: Latest News

Jim Dinn began work with the Red Antiquities Building in August of 2011.  Reflecting on his experiences and contributions restoring and renovating the building Jim imparts some wonderful pearls of wisdom, “You can save anything in the world if enough people put their heart into it!”

An experienced Craftsman and Cabinetmaker, it’s clear when speaking to Jim that the Red Antiquities Building is a project near and dear to his heart.  For Jim, bringing the building back from the brink isn’t just about preserving a piece of architectural history, it’s also about Community and Revitalization.  Jim is a long time resident and member of the SoHo Community having lived 41 of his 51 years in the SoHo region.  Jim has seen the SoHo community through a lot of changes including the demolition of his old school, Governor Simcoe School, and sees a lot of hope for the future of the community.  “There’s a lot of growth happening in the area right now and it’s got that up and coming feel!  New things are happening and houses, buildings and properties are being cleaned up.  The R.A.B. is a perfect example.  It was a hurt looking building and now it’s quite gorgeous.  Now that we’re working on the drywall inside you can really get a sense of the complete project and it’s just gorgeous!”

 

Jim’s 27 years of experience as a Cabinetmaker and the time he has spent self-employed doing Renovations and Handyman work have made him an invaluable asset on the Red Antiquities Project.  When asked what brought him to this project after 27 years in Cabinetmaking  he shares that he wanted to broaden his horizons. “I believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks!  I wanted to get deeper into the field, work outside and practice my art on different buildings and in different locations.”  Jim speaks with pride about his craftsmanship recognizing it as a form of art.  “From the ground up it takes all of your body, physically and mentally.  I’m leaving a part of myself here.  When this project is done I’d like to continue to get out there and practice my art working on various buildings, even in different towns and cities if that’s what it takes!”

When asked what qualities and characteristics he brings to endeavors like the Red Antiquities Project Jim is very confident in answering, “110% Quality!  I take great pride in my work and put all of my heart into it!  I’ve also learned in my work to always think a step ahead.  You have to know what it takes to complete what you are doing in the moment but you need to know what has to happen next and plan for it.  That makes the project flow and avoids downtime!”

Jim’s forward thinking has made an impact not only on the building itself but also on the rest of the crew at the R.A.B.  With 20 years experience as a Foreman in the Cabinetry trade, Jim has trained a lot of new employees in his career and enjoys imparting what he has learned to other crew members.  “We’re quite a varied crew with guys of all different backgrounds and ages from 17 – 62.  Whenever I can share what I’ve learned throughout the years and help the other guys I’m happy to do it, especially when it comes to safety.  I get it back in return.  The pieces of information you learn from the guys are golden!”  Jim maximizes that opportunity to teach and learn from others simply due to the fact that he has never called in sick on the job. “I’m always here, I’m a hard worker with a lot of heart and I’m pretty easy to understand!”

It’s also easy to understand the benefits that Jim has gleaned form working on the Red Antiquities Project.  Jim has saved his earnings, purchased a vehicle, made new friends, established new contacts on the job and has expanded his knowledge and experience in the area of Heritage Restoration and Renovations.  Perhaps greater than all of this is the overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment that radiates in Jim’s expression as he talks about sharing details about the Red Antiquities Building with his friends, family and neighbours.  “I love it!  It’s an artistic work and a building that will last another 120 years!”  The heart that Jim puts into his work and into the Red Antiquities Building might be best illustrated by his experience during a press conference held on site at which the Ontario Trillium Foundation presented funding for the project. “I remember that day, talking to the Politicians and Dignitaries about the building and my work with it – I found myself with a tear in my eye!”

Away from the job site a great deal of Jim’s focus is on his family and community.  He talks with passion when describing his relationship with his son and scattered throughout our conversation are details and references about his friends and neighbours.  A glimpse into Jim’s character is revealed when he talks about a recent fire in a house on his block and his selfless attitude in approaching the burning building to ensure the occupants were out safely.  It’s that sense of commitment, dedication and heart that makes Jim Dinn an important part of his community, an important part of his Crew on the job and an important key in the success of the Red Antiquities Building.

After all, “You can save anything in the world if enough people put their heart into it!”

~ Greg Yarker