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


28. February 2012 · Comments Off on Meet The Crew: Sean Coté · Categories: Meet The Crew

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.

Kara James

10. February 2012 · Comments Off on Meet The Crew: Phil Caudle – Site Foreman · Categories: Meet The Crew

Phil Caudle has been involved with the construction of the Red Antiquities Building since August of 2011.  As foreman, he takes on a great deal of responsibility at the site on a daily basis.  He smoothes the cracks, puts out the fires and makes sure at the end of the day, everybody walks away smiling.  As the site Manager’s right hand man, Phil is also partly responsible for training and mentoring the men who join the project looking to enhance their level of experience and skill.  “Everybody has a story,” he says with the gruff vocal cadence of a man who means business. “Everybody has a different reason for wanting to be here.”  Phil is all too happy to describe the young men who come to him for guidance as they polish their new found construction skills. “I’m happy to pass on my knowledge,” he says. “There’s nothing better than to take a young guy who isn’t too sure of himself and see the look of pride in himself at the end of the day.”

That look of pride is all too familiar to Phil, a proud Londoner for close to 30 years.  “When I was a boy, living in Elmira, I took woodshop in grade 8,” he says.  “Everybody did.  No big deal.”  He leans forward, his voice falls a bit as he describes the beginning of what would become a lifelong passion.  “I decided to build my dad a triangular shaped foot stool for Father’s Day,” he says.  He smiles as the memory comes flooding back.  “I drew the plans and laid it out, I even had the girls in Home Ec teach me how to sew so I could put a nice little cushion on top.”  Phil describes the look on his father’s face when he presented him with that footstool and it’s easy to see where this love of woodworking, of accomplishing something with his own hands began.  “You know, he still has it somewhere,” he says.  “Even after all these years.”

Phil took that love of working with his hands and as a young man, paved his way across our nation.  From cutting out switchbacks up the mountains of B.C. to fixing boats on the rocky shores of the East Coast, he’s always taken enormous pride in his accomplishments.  “I take a great interest in everything that I do,” he remarks.  “I love to learn and then I love to pass it on.”  That’s exactly what he’s doing each day at the Red Antiquities Building project.  “If these guys want to learn, I’ll teach them,” he says.  “I can be strict, sure, but it’s because I want them to give me one hundred percent.”  He describes the tremendous opportunity this particular project has given him: “I’ve worked on heritage projects before,” he says. “Blackfriars bridge, heritage homes on Dufferin street, I love the fact that you can take an old building and bring it back to the way it was in the beginning. It’s a labour of love.  It really is.”

Yet, make no mistake, according to Phil this building is a very different project with a steep learning curve.  “It’s not a new construction nor is it a renovation or a restoration.  It’s a combination of everything, really,” he says.  “These guys working with me are getting the best training there is. Hands down.”

Walking past the job site, it’s easy to tell which one is Phil.  With the yellow hard hat, steel toed boots, rough exterior, he’d be easily cast as Construction Man #2 in any TV movie of the week.  But, underneath the hat, he’s a devoted family man, married for over 20 years. He glows with pride when describing his two almost grown kids who are busy carving out lives of their own right here in the Forest City.  “I’m also an avid reader,” he says. “I’ll read just about anything.” He’s also a proud Legion member and definitely knows his way around the kitchen.  “I do all my own canning,” he says “Pickles, relishes, jams, you name it!”  Again, Phil brings us back to that passion for creating something with his own hands.  This is no doubt what makes him happiest.  “Anything you build, anything you make, it’s the same feeling,” he says as he searches his mind to find the right words. “It doesn’t matter what you’re making.  If you were to sit down and knit a sweater,  that feeling you get, that you’ve made it yourself.  That’s what I’m talking about.”  He smiles and leans back in his chair, imagining the accomplishments that still lay ahead of him.  “A piece of the Red Antiquities Building will stay with me.  Always” he says.

We hope so.

Kara James

03. February 2012 · Comments Off on Meet The Crew: Barry Primak – Site Manager · Categories: Meet The Crew

As we drive down that Soho stretch of Wellington, our eyes automatically wander over to the Red Antiquities Building.  We’re compelled to visually take in the changes and marvel at the progress that’s been made.   It’s not just the brilliant red boards and detailed construction that catches our eye.  We also see the hard working construction crews high up on the rooftops or bent over hundred year old bricks enduring the cold, the rain and the heat of the sun.  Without these men, committed to the significance of the project, there would simply be no project at all.

It’s our pleasure to introduce The Red Antiquities Construction Team in a continuing series called:  Meet The Crew

Meet Barry Primak: Site Manager

Barry has been involved with the Red Antiquities Building since the early fall of 2011.  As site manager, he is responsible for every single detail of the project, managing 12 crew members, sub trades, organizing and scheduling all aspects of the project to fit within tight deadlines and budget constraints.  When asked why he chose this type of work, a broad smile spreads across his face. “It’s what I’m good at,” he says.   Originally from Burlington, a carpenter by trade, he learned early on that working with materials was in his blood.  “It’s my passion,” he says.  “It’s what I love to do.”

This passion for construction has taken him outside of Ontario and across the world.  Six years in South Africa, building high end custom homes not only gave him the experience and training needed to further his career, it also allowed him the chance to pass his knowledge on to others.  ‘In South Africa, after a while, I found that I was training people,” says Barry.  “Even when I was dealing with a definite language barrier, I realized I liked helping others reach their potential.”

The travel bug still in his system, Barry jumped continents again for his next adventure: Afghanistan.   Committed to following his passion for working with materials and construction, he assisted the Canadian troops, as a civilian, in a supportive role.  “Again, I found myself training others, overcoming language barriers,” he says.  He describes the experience as fantastic and life changing.  Now, a family man situated in London with a wife and two growing children, the Red Antiquities Building project seemed the perfect opportunity to further his passion for building while planting roots in a city that has come to mean so much to him.  “I’m fascinated by the structure of this building,” Barry says.  “As a carpenter, I’m especially interested in seeing the work that was done all those years ago.  I’m immersing myself in all the different aspects of the building so we can restore it to its former glory.”

This has not been an easy project and one which has held many challenges and intricacies.   Barry is quick to point out that the dedication of the crew is the force that drives all of them to keep going.  “The best part of this job is the people I’m working with,” he says.  “All these guys, they don’t have to be here but they show up, every single day.”  Due to the nature of the Job Creation Partnership, Barry has had the privilege of working with several young men who come to him with very little experience.  “I see these young guys come in, and I watch them learn and develop new skills,” he explains.  “I find out what they’re good at and then I watch them grow.  They put their heart into it and I can see it becoming a passion in them like it is in me.”

Barry describes his foreman and the crew members with a genuine sense of camaraderie and respect.  “They all realize the historic significance of the building,” he says.  ‘They want to be there to see it through to completion.”  As the sound of hammers, drills and saws continue in the background, Barry straightens his hard hat, stands and looks toward the door as if signalling that he’s got a full day ahead of him and needs to get moving.  “When I think about this job,” he says.  “The Red Antiquities Building is bigger than a job.  This is bigger than all of us.”  Amidst the noise of the restoration and renovation going on around him, he continues. “The RAB was here before us and it’ll be here after us.  How lucky am I to be part of its history,” he says. How lucky indeed.

Kara James

Stay tuned for more in the Meet The Crew series and be sure to like us on facebook and follow us on twitter for updates.