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Archive for Monday, November 12, 1990

RESTORATION IN LECOMPTON LEAVES CONSTITUTION HALL UP IN THE AIR

November 12, 1990

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— Restoration work has literally left Lecompton's Constitution Hall up in the air. In fact, when workers finish clearing dirt from under the building, the hall will dangle about 10 feet off the ground.

Dan Rockhill and Sons, Lecompton, lifted the 100-year-old building on Oct. 31 to work on the foundation and provide access for Kansas State Historical Society archaeologists to excavate the site.

By the end of this week, all the dirt should be removed from under the building, and excavation work should be finished, Rockhill said.

"They have found some things, not necessarily artifacts, but indications of how the building was built," Rockhill said this morning.

State archaeologists were puzzled by the discovery of a wall of dressed, or chiseled, stone under ground level. "It doesn't fit in with the history of the building," Rockhill said.

EXCAVATION also revealed that the east wall of the rock foundation had been rebuilt around the turn of the century, and that the foundation was dry laid, meaning no mortar was used. Archaeologists uncovered a number of interesting items from the building's past including shell casings, some live ammunition, a button and a newspaper from the early 1900s.

Rockhill said his firm dismantled the foundation, removed and numbered about 300 stones. Workers later will reassemble the stones in their designated locations. Although the original foundation consisted entirely of stone, Rockhill said much of the underground stone has suffered from too many freeze-thaw cycles and has severely deteriorated. He plans to construct a concrete foundation under ground level and re-lay stonework above ground.

WHEN WORKERS raised the hall, they leveled the building to account for a six-inch slant back to the west and a 2 -inch slant north. "In leveling it when you lift it, you could change the location of the corners," Rockhill said, adding the foundation might be shifted slightly to accommodate the change.

In addition to working on the building, Rockhill and Sons will regrade the site to develop an efficient drainage system. "Right now, it drains into the building," Rockhill said.

Workers also are reglazing windows and winterizing the hall with temporary siding to block cold winds. If winter temperatures aren't too severe, Rockhill said, the first phase of the work should be completed by about February. At that time, workers will set the hall back on its foundation and work will get under way inside.

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