Flume Fever Afflicted: 126-Year-Old Mining Flume in Western Colorado Clings to its Secret

There is something about the tattered remnants of a 126-year-old mining marvel that keeps drawing the curious back to this remote area along Colorado 141 located in Colorado Canyon Country, mostly on public lands operated by the Bureau of Land Management, Uncompahgre Field office.

Those who keep returning to measure, survey, photograph and examine the mysterious structure known as the Hanging Flume call it “flume fever.” The afflicted wake in the middle of the night to puzzle over how enterprising but misguided gold seekers pinned a 10-mile-long wooden water chute to a sheer cliff to create a hydraulic gold separator.

Our Hanging Flume investigative team this year: Kent Diebolt, Donn Hewes, Keith Luscinski, and Kevin Dalton

Previous preservation efforts on the Flume identified the need for additional investigative work to better understand the diverse construction, innovative engineering, and significance of the Flume to mining history in Colorado.

The red sandstone cliffs of the Dolores and the San Miguel Rivers are the site of one of the longest and most intriguing heritage sites in Colorado: running parallel to the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway, this storied and iconic western slope structure has awed international travelers and regional passersby for decades. Sparking such questions as, “What was it for?” “How long did it take to build?” “Who built it?” “And how?” Years of research by local residents, BLM archeologists, and national specialists have provided many conclusive answers however answers to the question of the flume’s construction have remained speculative at best, until now. From April 26 –May 5th Anthony & Associates, Vertical Access and Alpine Archaeological Consultants will be completing Phase Three of an Archaeological Survey funded by History Colorado and the State of Colorado Div. of Reclamation, Mining & Safety The team of experts will conduct investigation of construction methodology at approximate six drop locations.

Project Manager Ron Anthony, of Anthony & Associates, a wood scientist from Fort Collins, CO, believes the technical questions about the flume’s construction methods will be best answered with careful research and investigation.

“Construction of the Hanging Flume in the 1880s was accomplished in a time and place that we can barely imagine,” Anthony says, “It would be selfish and irresponsible to allow these construction, engineering and human achievements to vanish without doing our best to make them available for future generations.”

The flume carried 80-million gallons of water in a 24-hour period to the hydraulic mining operations of the Montrose Placer Mining Company. Taking 3 years and 25 local men to complete, the water was used to provide hydraulic power to separate gold from alluvial rock deposits which originated in the San Juan Mountains before being deposited along the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers. “We know what they built; we just don’t know how they built it and to our knowledge, the construction technology was not documented. Over 100 years have past since its construction and the flume is showing its age.”

In 2006 the Hanging Flume made the World Monument Watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. Since that time, the BLM has developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Colorado Preservation, Inc., the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway Association, the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado, History Colorado and Colorado Div. of Reclamation, Mining & Safety to help determine how best this unique western slope artifact can be preserved for public education and historic interpretation for future generations.

For more information about the Historic Hanging Flume project please contact Chris Miller, Executive Director, Interpretive Association of Western Colorado at 970-874-6695 or visit www.hangingflume.org

(This story was circulated as a press release on April 20, 2017, and published in the San Miguel Basin Forum).

For more on the hanging flume check out the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway Association video here or read some collected musings about our flume fever since 2004.

The Hanging Flume: Gold ambitions led to Marvel of Engineering in Dolores Canyon

As we embark on another investigative assignment at the Hanging Flume next week in Colorado, we found this interesting article from Bob Silbernagel of the Grand Junction Sentinel: Gold ambitions led to Marvel of Engineering in Dolores Canyon.

A century after the flume was abandoned, an effort began to preserve it. The nonprofit Interpretive Association of Western Colorado, working with the Bureau of Land Management, and with assistance from a Colorado State Historical Grant, the JM Kaplan Fund and John Hendricks of Gateway Canyons Resort, contracted for studies of the flume’s construction and its history. In 2012, 48 feet of the flume were rebuilt, using construction techniques similar to those used in 1890 and 1891.

The flume is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures and is the longest historic structure in Colorado.

We’ll be joined by Anthony & Associates and Alpine Archaeological Consultants as we return to the Hanging Flume for continued investigations. Read more about the efforts to document and understand the mysterious construction methods of this historic marvel:

http://bit.ly/2q7FkaT

Can You Guess This Building? Series No. 10

Test your knowledge of historic and iconic buildings in the U.S. (and beyond!) in this series of “guess the building” blog posts.

Series No. 10:

The clues to this building’s use are in its marble and terra cotta ornament. It was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, and completed in 1930. Where is it?

 

Answer: Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL. This indoor public aquarium was once the largest in the world, holding over five million gallons of water. The building’s Beaux Arts style complements neighboring buildings on the Museum Campus Chicago.

 

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Don’t miss another architectural challenge: subscribe to our newsletter by signing up with your email address in the sidebar. Click here to see all of the posts in this series.

Photos by Vertical Access. Read more about our involvement with the Shedd Aquarium here.

Facade Ordinance Inspection Updates

Building facade inspection programs are mandated by many cities in the United States to proactively identify unsafe conditions that may present a risk of causing injury or damaging property. While the specific requirements of each city’s ordinances differ, all regulations stipulate that inspections be performed at regular intervals.   Specific deadlines and updated requirements are approaching this year for the following municipalities:

  • The City of Philadelphia’s next scheduled inspection reports are due by June 30, 2017 (for buildings constructed between 1951 and 1970);
  • The City of Cincinnati is the newest city to pass a façade ordinance, requiring buildings constructed prior to January 1, 1920 to be inspected on or before July 1, 2017.
  • A new Department of Buildings requirement under New York City’s FISP (Fascade Inspection Safety Program) states that a Supplemental Report on Balconies and Railings needs to be filed for all Local Law 11 Cycle 7 Filings. Cycle 8 filings already incorporate the balcony evaluation requirement.

Vertical Access can assist with city-mandated inspections by using industrial rope access, proven to be an appropriate, safe, efficient and cost-effective option for many façade inspection projects.

More on facade ordinances

The Sky’s the Limit with our 5 FAA-Certified UAV (Drone) Pilots

At Vertical Access, we go to great lengths—and heights—to help you gather meaningful data about your project’s site conditions. Our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) services bring together the expertise of five FAA-certified drone pilots, architectural conservators, engineers and historians to investigate buildings and infrastructure.

Vertical Access enhances our inspections services at any height with a team of FAA-certified UAV pilots. Our pilots utilize drone technology in a number of applications ranging from reconnaissance surveys highlighting areas of concern for further investigation to flying lightweight rigging cords up-and-over structural elements to gain hands-on access.

We currently operate a fleet of DJI™ Phantom quadcopter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) to aid in the investigation of buildings and infrastructure. If hands-on access is not feasible, high resolution photographs and video taken from mounted cameras provide sharp images for conditions assessment.

Regardless of the application, our team operates in full compliance with FAA Part 107, Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations. All of our aircraft are registered and each of our TSA-vetted operators holds a Remote Pilot Certificate.

More information on our UAV Surveys is found here and in published articles including: Olson, Kristen, and Kelly Streeter, P.E. “3D Models Take Off with Drone Technology.” SWRI Applicator Magazine, Summer 2016. Download the UAV Technical Highlight here.

On Rope and In the Air at Trinity Church

Vertical Access has had the privilege of making several trips to Boston’s Trinity Church over the years in order to assist with the investigation of interior and exterior conditions. Consecrated in 1877 and situated on a prominent public square in Boston’s Back Bay, Trinity Church is considered the masterpiece of architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Today, the parish is officially known as Trinity Church in the City of Boston.

trinity boston

Trinity Church, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the finest examples of American architecture of the late nineteenth century. H.H. Richardson’s competition-winning design employs the rounded arches, deep window reveals and turret forms that are characteristic of his eponymous style, Richardsonian Romanesque. Trinity is organized as a compact Greek cross, with an auditorium-like seating arrangement beneath a massive, square central tower. The church is decorated with richly-colored interior murals by John La Farge, sculpture by Daniel Chester French and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and stained glass windows by La Farge and other leading glass designers.

A five-year restoration of the church and parish house began in 2001, directed by Goody Clancy. Work included masonry repairs at the tower exterior, improvements to life safety and mechanical systems, and restoration of the stained glass windows and interior finishes. Also as part of the project, the church undercroft and parish house basement underwent an award-winning conversion into universally-accessible meeting and classroom spaces.

As exterior work began in the spring of 2003, Vertical Access was asked to document the La Farge murals and architectural details at the interior of the central church tower. Industrial rope access was used to gain access to the tower interior, and VA scheduled the work to avoid interrupting the three daily church services. Vertical Access worked closely with Goody Clancy to capture high-quality imagery of the delicate interior finishes.

Looking down from the attic, a Boston Globe photographer captured James Banta, left, and Kent Diebolt, with camera, documenting the La Farge murals inside Trinity Church’s central tower.

Looking down from the attic, a Boston Globe photographer captured James Banta, left, and Kent Diebolt, with camera, documenting the La Farge murals inside Trinity Church’s central tower.

Vertical Access’ photodocumentation was used by the Trinity Boston Preservation Trust in their 2004 campaign to fund the restoration of Trinity’s murals and stained glass windows.

David, photographed by Vertical Access in 2003.

David, photographed by Vertical Access in 2003.

More than a decade after the interior documentation and restoration, VA returned to Trinity in August, 2016. Kelly Streeter and Kristen Olson joined Casey Williams of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger on the tower roof to document the condition of the clay tile roof, along with the northeast turret. VA was working for SGH, who were under the direction of Goody Clancy.

From left, Casey Williams, Kelly Streeter, and Kristen Olson on the central tower in 2016, with the “world’s longest selfie-stick”. The pole-mounted GoPro camera was used to document the condition of the copper finial.

From left, Casey Williams, Kelly Streeter, and Kristen Olson on the central tower in 2016, with the “world’s longest selfie-stick”. The pole-mounted GoPro camera was used to document the condition of the copper cross and stanchion atop the tower.

VA’s latest visit took place in September, when Kelly and Kristen participated in the Documentation Technologies Workshop presented by the Northeast Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology. The event brought together an international audience for presentations and demonstrations of cutting-edge technology used in the documentation and characterization of historic structures.

Kelly and Kristen presented “Drones: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown”, an overview of the applications for drones in building documentation, the potential for drones to augment hands-on inspections, available drone hardware and accessory technologies, and current FAA regulations. We followed the presentation with a live demonstration of our new drone, a DJI Phantom 4, inside the church sanctuary.

Left, a live feed video stream of the interior murals as they are captured by the drone, at right.

What It Takes To Repair A 9-Million-Pound American Symbol: Preservation Magazine, Spring 2017

Photo by Architect of the Capital

At 289 feet tall, the dome of the United States Capitol towers over the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an instantly recognizable symbol of democracy. The cast iron dome itself was completed in 1863, after the nation’s rapid growth necessitated a remodel and expansion of the entire Capitol in the 1850s.

By the 1950s, however, the 9 million–pound dome had numerous fissures, and an attempt to weld them during a 1959–60 restoration was largely unsuccessful. The entire surface was cracking by 2014, prompting a three-year project that was completed in time for the 2017 Inauguration.

Vertical Access helped to document 1300 cracks on the United States Capitol Dome.

Read the rest of Katherine Flynn’s story from Preservation magazine here.

 

Mesa to Mountain Recap: Preservation in the American West

Last week, architects, engineers, and preservationists made the trek to Salt Lake City for Mesa to Mountain: Preservation in the American West. The three-day symposium, hosted by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International, drew audiences and presenters from New England to the Pacific North West. Vertical Access’ Kent Diebolt and Kristen Olson served on the Planning Committee. VA technicians Patrick Capruso, Kevin Dalton, and Keith Luscinski also attended.

Mesa to Mountain opened at the historic Alta Club with a reception and plenary session presented by Peter Goss, Ph.D. on architectural typologies found in the Beehive State. The symposium moved across South Temple the following morning to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building where Lee Kreutzer, Cultural Resource Specialist for the NPS National Trails System, delivered her keynote address, “Paths, Pathogens, Ponies, and Wheels: How Trails Changed the Cultural Geography of America.” Kreutzer’s overview provided context for the paper sessions which focused on seismic mitigation, materials, and cultural heritage. Presenters offered talks on a variety of subjects specific to western architecture and preservation ranging from the influence of midcentury precast concrete in the Rocky Mountain Region to documenting the decorated earthen plaster and wood of a 12th century kiva at Utah’s Bare Ladder Ruin. Mesa to Mountain’s regional focus lent a sense of relevance to the paper sessions with common threads woven through each presentation.

Those same themes were apparent during the field sessions offered on the third day of the event. Whether it was a trip to Antelope Island State Park to catch a glimpse of bison and pronghorn sheep while exploring an 1848 adobe ranch house, touring the shop at Historical Arts and Casting, one of the nation’s premier metal casters, or viewing the base isolators at the Utah State Capitol Building and the lattice-truss arch system at the Mormon Tabernacle each session reinforced information presented the day before. The Mesa to Mountain Symposium was a success due in large part to its historic venues and regional focus.

The Powerhouse Workshop To Set Up Shop in Former Brooklyn Rapid Transit Central Power Station

Vertical Access is exited to see The Powerhouse Workshop project moving forward. We had the pleasure of assisting Roux Associates and Silman with the structural characterization and investigation of roof framing components as part of their site investigations.

The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Central Power Station was constructed in 1902 to supply electricity to the newly consolidated local steam railroad, elevated railroad and street car system.

Designed in the Romanesque Revival style by Thomas E. Murray, the BRT Powerhouse consisted of two parts. The extant south building housed the dynamo and engines, and the Boiler House, which contained the furnaces and coal storage. The Powerhouse was decommissioned and the boiler house demolished in the 1950s.

The powerhouse structure is comprised of built up steel lattice columns with infill brick walls. The roof structure is framed by primary modified Raised Toe trusses that span the space and are supported at the steel columns. Two secondary lateral trusses brace the primary trusses at the approximate third points.

Read the New York Times story here: http://nyti.ms/2mJrOLX
For more on the Powerhouse Workshop: http://www.powerhousearts.org/