Historic arbor gets a facelift after 200 years
DENVER – After nearly two centuries of sheltering worshippers from rain and sun, the arbor at Rock Springs Campground in Denver is getting some much needed care.
Originally constructed circa 1833, the arbor is approximately 90 feet long by 65 feet wide. It’s constructed of massive hand-hewn beams and posts pinned together with wooden pegs. Though strong as a battleship, the arbor was nonetheless showing signs of wood rot and decay in some vital supports.
Construction crews have brought in beams that originally came from a 150-year-old dairy barn in Canada. The replacement beams are up to 18 feet long, about 12 inches square and weigh hundreds of pounds each.
The beams were sourced by Appalachian Hardwoods. After being stored for a time at a warehouse in Waynesville, the wood was trucked to the arbor site.
A four-man crew from Ken Bradshaw Co. has been repairing the arbor for several weeks. Carpenters Robert Crawley and Trenton Armstrong recently spent the morning trimming a replacement beam with a chainsaw and preparing to mount it using brute strength.
“We lift each end one at a time by hand to move it up the post,” Crawley said. “Then we hold it in place with board braces until we get it mounted. It’s old-timey, cave-man style.”
Once a replacement beam or post is positioned, it’s secured with countersunk lag bolts. A wooden plug placed over the bolt head gives the appearance of the original wooden pegs but is much stronger. A series of steel cables and ratchets help hold the arbor together while the repair is going on.
“We got one side straighter than it’s been in a hundred years,” Armstrong said. “Nothing was square.”
In addition to posts and beams, some of the arbor’s bracing is being replaced with special attention to detail.
“We have new braces that are sawn,” Crawley said. “But we will use an axe on the sides to give them a hand-hewn look.”
Rock Spring Camp Meeting trustee Van Barker said pieces of the old beams will be auctioned off to help pay for the restoration.
“We are saving all the pieces we can,” Barker said. “The auction will be sometime in June.”
The arbor restoration on site supervisor Thomas Mann said he and his crew hope to have the job done by around the first of May, but if trustees decide on a few more fixes, that date could move back a few weeks.
Even so, the arbor should be ready for action when the next camp meeting takes place in August.
Mann and his men are rightly proud of the work they are putting into breathing new life into the arbor.
“When we finish and walk away from this job, I hope they get another 200 years of use out of it,” he said. “I hope my children’s children will be able to see what we did here.”