Bricks came out, now bricks are going back in

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — The ace duo from Masonry Restoration Consulting have been onsite for about six weeks now, giving Fort Ward’s historic  brick bakery its nip and tuck.

To date this has mostly been an exercise in addition by subtraction: opening up the big windows and doorways bricked over by the Navy in the 1940s, and removing damaged bricks and mortar for replacement and repointing.

This week marks a significant turn: bricks are going back in. PJ and Toby have started on the north face, cleaning up window openings and filling holes, voids and breaches.

They’re drawing from the stacks of newly reconditioned vintage bricks that have accumulated over the past few weeks, with new units to be mixed in where appropriate. After each brick is selected for color and fit, cut to size (as needed) and mortared into place — like removal, a very deliberative process — the visible gaps will be repointed with color-corrected mortar to match the aged and weathered material around it.

We’ve found the existing mortar tends to have a yellowish hue, although after 100 years of random weathering it varies somewhat around the building and even on the same wall. But color tests continue, and we think the team is getting pretty close. Once the right hue is determined, final repointing should go pretty fast, and when it’s dry you should have to look pretty close to see the difference, old to new.

And the first element of reconstruction: the corbel plinth to the left of the front doorway. The original plinth — a little protruding brick ledge that buttresses the two stout beams holding up the front porch overhang — was hammered away decades ago when the porch was enclosed. This morning, PJ built a new plinth to match the one on the other side of the doorway. Once the mortar has firmed up, we can install the new beams and peel away the last vestiges of the ugly wraparound that has blighted the facade since the 1960s or ’70s.

Here’s a slideshow of today’s work, including the bakery’s new corbel plinth.