Crawford Building Knick Knacks - Putnam Sentinel
Some of the items found by Chris Halker as he has worked to renovate the Crawford Building in Columbus Grove. He put these a more items up for sale during the town-wide garage sale held on Friday, May 3. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

COLUMBUS GROVE — “We looked at it and knew that it was a mess,” Chris Halker said this past December. “We’re gutting it, and I have calls to get a roof. That’s the first thing I need to do, get a new roof. That way we can get everything dried out.”

He was speaking about what Columbus Grove refers to as the ‘Crawford Building.’ Located in the heart of the village’s downtown, on the northeast corner of Sycamore and High Streets, the village worked out a deal last fall to settle liens on the property and transfer it to a new owner willing to preserve it.

If that had not occurred, the structure would have likely been torn down at a much greater cost. Recouping the cost of any demolition work from the previous owner would have, at the very least, taken a very long time. And, there is more than a reasonable chance that the total cost might never have be recovered for Columbus Grove’s taxpayers.

More recently, the Sentinel sought an update from Mr. Halker on his progress with the building’s ongoing renovations. Such progress has certainly been made. And, he’s also not much further beyond his initial assessment from last December. The new roof he spoke of needing then was just installed within the last two weeks.

“People saw me on the roof a couple of weeks ago with some guys,” Mr. Halker says. “We put down a new metal roof. I have a buddy coming this week to finish the flashing. So that will stop all of the water from getting-in. Right now, it’s more of a controlled leak since we got the roof done. Right along the edge there’s a couple spots, but that will be filled-in, hopefully this week, weather permitting with all of the rain that we’re getting.”

“After this week, it should be sealed up completely. From there, it’ll be time to knock some walls down, both upstairs and downstairs, just to get air moving. So now it’s going to be a little more of a waiting game to see how fast I can get it dried out with fans, and hopefully the heat of the next few months. Then, I can start putting in, at least, a subfloor, and start with walls, I’m hoping, by mid-to-late-summer.”

“The goal was December [of this current year], to at least open office space on the first floor,” Mr. Halker continues. “Part of me says, ‘I think I can do it,’ but part of me says, ‘The waiting game on the drying part might interfere with that timeframe.’ I won’t be too sure on that until we get a little farther into the summer.”

This conversation was held a week ago on May 1. It rained that very day, according to the Sentinel’s official weather chronicler, Guy Verhoff of Pandora. It did so again the following three days, dropping nearly a half and inch of rain over the course of four days. More rain is predicted for the near future as well. The wet spring will eventually give into a warmer, dryer summer, as it always does. But, with each downpour, Mr. Halker’s plans are delayed a little further.

In addition to installing a new roof, when asked about his biggest challenge to this point, Mr. Halker says, “Honestly, it was just getting everything out. It felt like I was never making headway, because just throwing stuff out doesn’t seem like much construction work at all. But, it had to be done.”

“It took me, I think, five truck and trailer loads of burnable stuff to my friend’s burn pile. I think I’ve used six rolloff dumpsters. And that, like I said, is just clearing everything out that was in the building. And, I’ve made a few trips, at least four or five, over to Northwest Recycling.”

“So, it’s been busy,” Mr. Halker says with a weary laugh, “But, it’s getting there.”

Getting the building cleared out has undoubtedly been one of the bigger challenges, but what about surprises? In the sense of a good surprise, and, perhaps, a not-so-good surprise, Mr. Halker was asked what his experience has been to this point.

“One of the biggest surprises is that all of the floor joists are [made from] the nice, old, native timbers. There are areas where some look wet, but for the most part, they’re actually really all sturdy and should last.”

“I was talking with a friend who does construction, and I’ll probably still do something like a header on every board, just to help the supports, since it had been wet for so long. Just more of a ‘peace of mind,’ to know that it’s safe.”

Mr. Halker also spoke of finding several ‘knick-knacks’ and other historically or otherwise interesting items. He planned on selling some of those items during the town-wide garage sale held last weekend in Columbus Grove.

Completing the upstairs will be a couple of years, Mr. Halker says. The flooring on the second floor, though not collapsed as was previously believed, is still not in very good condition. He plans on knocking down walls on the second floor to help with airflow, and to keep dust to a minimum once the first floor is opened and renovations on the second floor begin in earnest. Otherwise, Mr. Halker feels he remains somewhat on schedule, and still believes that Columbus Grove will boast a new office of Thrivent Financial (Mr. Halker’s employer) by this December.