Stories from The Olde Barracks–Part 1
Today’s guest author is Sharon Holtz who ran the Mississippi School at the Olde Barracks.
The building was 200′ long and only 36′ wide. When Mississippi School moved in during the summer of 2004, the main floor was partitioned into many small quarters. The officers’ quarters were small squares 12′ x 12′ with two windows. They lined the front side of the building, except for the centre section. One room actually had a private washroom so it must have belonged to the commanding officer. The other quarters were narrow rectangles 12′ x 8′ with room for a single bed, a wooden dresser, a wooden desk and a chair. These rooms had one window each. These had originally lined the entire second floor, both front and back, and the back of the lower floor, again excepting the centre block. All of this furniture was sold or donated and the pile of old mattresses was discarded. The school renovation team, consisting of staff and students, had a lot of fun knocking down walls to create large open classrooms. One of the beautiful things about the building was that there were so many windows that interior lights were rarely needed.
Knocking down walls also became a lesson on the desiccation process of mice. We found their bodies in all states of decomposition. The first few discoveries were occasioned by screams but we all became used to these findings and they only merited a bit of scientific interest. We also found some of the targets used for target shooting. For some reason these had been stored in the walls during construction.
That building was built to last. Only a devastating fire, like the one which just happened, could have reduced it to ashes. The walls were built with 2″x 6″ supports. If they needed one nail to hold it together, they used three. The bolts used to hold the kitchen cupboards in place were so large we thought that the wall was going to come down before the cupboards did. The central section of the building was the massive commercial sized kitchen and an eating area. Unfortunately when the school moved in the health and safety inspector said that the kitchen had to go. It was sad to see it dismantled and removed. A small personal kitchen was put in instead. The school used the space as the cafeteria and converted the meeting space across the hall into a huge open library. The roof beams in the ceiling were massive and constructed uniquely for these buildings. There was an old safe in the attic which we were never able to trace or open. I wonder if it survived the flames.
The building was initially a communications centre for the military. During the renovations we removed literally miles of wires from the ceilings. Down in the basement were large communication panels.
The building was a plumber’s challenge. It was impossible to figure out which pipes went where. All of the plumbing and electrical systems were in the basement. So everything had to be brought up through the main floor. The basement itself was constructed as a sealed cement box. In fact, someone once told us that it would be possible for the basement to float down the river! The floor of the basement was 18″ thick. The walls were 12″ thick and the ceiling was 20″ of cement with seventeen rows of rebar. We know because we had to drill two holes through the ceiling for new plumbing and new electrical systems. The company hired brought a huge diamond studded drill which was supported by a massive iron base. They started the drill, pulled out their comfortable folding chairs and sat down to wait. Two and a half hours later, we had a hole big enough for the drainage pipes. The circular block of cement which they removed must have weighed a ton.
by -Sharon Holtz– Stay tuned for Part 2