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