Some jobs are more public than others, but even a small construction project can attract some pretty big attention. Consider the Lake Superior Zoo Pavilion in Duluth, a recently-completed historic renovation project that drew not only curious zoo visitors, but zoo residents.
“Every morning when our carpenter, Tim Davidson, arrived at the job site, he’d hear the lion roaring,” said Kraus-Anderson Project Manager Paul Frost.
Kraus-Anderson recently completed renovations to the historic blue-stone zoo pavilion, a well-loved landmark for generations of zoo guests, school children and families in the region. After years of dilapidation, the structure is now enjoying a new life as a three-season structure, preserving the beauty of its past and ready to make memories for generations to come.
Built as a Works Projects Administration (WPA) structure in the 1930’s, the 2,400 s.f. pavilion is small in size, yet presented some unique challenges, said Frost.
For starters, the project had special considerations for public safety. The pavilion sits between two popular attractions: the lions and the Australian exhibit; and the visitor trail remained open only a few yards from the site through the duration of the project. Beyond signage and orange fencing, extra measures were taken to protect zoo visitors.
Because public exhibits remained open between the parking lot staging area and the pavilion, every forklift of building material was escorted by a member of the crew between the lot and the pavilion to watch out for public safety. All construction activities were closely monitored and modified or suspended to prevent disruptions or hazards to the public.
Renovation included replacement of the original timber roof. The existing roof was removed by hand, with crews carefully dropping all demo materials into the building, away from zoo visitors.
The task of enclosing the rustic open-air structure meant sourcing and working with some nonstandard materials, and working around rugged (you could say irregular) obstacles with modern standards. Kraus-Anderson Project Superintendent Jim Roy was tasked with the tricky job of making everything fit. For starters the new roof needed a straight surface to sit on.
“The blue-stone was ridiculously crooked,” said Roy. “There was 5 ¾” of difference in elevation in the plane of the roof bearing.” Every side needed to be straightened, which meant cutting into the stone, performed by Concrete Sawing Services with a 48” diamond saw blade. Dust created by the stone cutting also meant frequent power-washing to keep the dust at bay and the trails clean.
Enclosing the building also meant marrying the rustic cutout door and windows to accommodate plumb window and door frames.
“There was no way to tell in the drawings how out of plumb everything was,” said Frost. “There was a 7” difference in sill heights…up to 2” out of level from one end of a window to the other end. There’s a 5” variance in elevation from one corner to the other. There was a dog leg of 2 ¾” along one long wall.”
Making it all fit together was time-consuming work. “You couldn’t make a square or a 45-degree cut. Everything was custom-cut. Every piece of everything we cut was an oddball shape,” said Roy.
“Everything had to get scribed to the rocks. New windows had to be squared to rock. Trimming out windows had to fit the rocks. Aluminum panels on the exterior had to be scribed to fit.”
“All the framing is epoxy anchored, from the stone to the beam and roof bearings. Everything had to be plumbed to the end that stuck out the most,” said Roy.
“Jim did an awesome job making sure the wood was scribed to the stone work, said Frost. “It was intricate work that really made it look nice.”
Some materials had to be creatively sourced. Three 8” x 14” x 14’ timber beams over the windows needed to be replaced- nonstandard sizes in today’s world. Kraus-Anderson worked with Duluth Timber, which solved the problem using reclaimed and custom-sawed Douglas fir timbers once used in old grain elevators.
Even some of the new materials required TLC.
“The new roof had 2” x 6” tongue-in-groove Douglas fir which we couldn’t get wet or it would turn black, so it had to be covered,” said Roy. A waterproof roof wrap was applied over the tongue and groove, followed by a layer of 5” Atlas plywood insulated foam panel.
The project also includes a new poured floor with epoxy coating, and exterior floor drains to draw runoff away from the building. Even the ceramic tile in the new bathrooms required special care. It took two days to do the tiles around the edge of the floor, custom cutting each to fit the rock wall.
Then there was that lion keeping watch daily on the progress.
“That was my threat, that the lions were hungry,” says Roy with a grin.
The completed structure provides an accessible, electrified, heated, enclosed multi-use venue for zoo environmental education, summer camps, Zoo Snooze overnight programs, and rental to outside groups. The original blue-stone walls and fireplace are now served by a beautiful new timber roof and modern comforts.
For all its unique challenges, the pavilion project also brings unique rewards to the team that restored it.
“There was hardly a soul that didn’t go there in school,” says Roy. “It’s a pretty popular place. Now people can appreciate it again.”
Plans call for the pavilion to open to the public in May.