GH Phipps Construction Companies
Category 10–Best Building Project–General Contractor (Under $10 Million)
Headquarters of TEZAK Heavy Equipment Company
The Wells Fargo Bank building located at 532 Main Street in downtown Cañon City, Colorado was purchased by TEZAK Heavy Equipment Co. for use as company headquarters. In late 2019, while exploring the attic space, a broken window revealed a pathway to the hidden building–carefully preserved under the rooftop that had been placed upon the structure decades ago. The finding led to a full historic renovation led by the GH Phipps Construction Companies team. In their efforts, the team faced challenges and overcame obstacles to achieve what is now a beautifully preserved historic building from 1921.
“Every city is a ghost. New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel beam, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now a park.” – Libba Bray, Lair of Dreams
TOWERS OF BRICKS
“ERECTED MCMXX,” read the transcription etched into the Georgian style architecture, revealed during the building’s renovation in December 2019. The intricate cream-colored terracotta; two 22-foot tall, fluted columns; and beautifully preserved, red-tinted brick was hidden for decades under a dark brown metal façade placed atop the Classical Revival style bank. It was a surprise to the entire team that the original structure had remained so well preserved.
Peering through the cobwebs, brushing aside the layers of dust, the Roman numeric equation read M + (M – C) + X + X, which, translated to numbers is 1000 + (1000 – 100) + 10 + 10. The engraved year on the historic building was 1920. Almost 100 years to the date of discovery. A full century of history in the structure that lay dormant, protected from the harsh, high-elevation elements–waiting for a resurrection, a second chance at life.
MEMORIES OF WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE
While records indicated a historic structure held up the large rooftop, no one was prepared for what they found.
“You know we were all kind of surprised to see what was underneath there and the shape that it is in and how it was preserved by the previous architect when they put the mansard roof on there,” said company owner Danny Tezak.
The beauty and preservation of history was a one-of-a-kind find for this area. “It is the only building of this type in Cañon City’s downtown historic district to have all the same original architectural elements: the terra cotta quoins surrounding the brick, the twin Greek Corinthian columns in the front, the decorative trim underneath the cornice, the decorative panels under the front windowsills and the distinguishing pilasters surrounding the front door,” said Lisa Studts, Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center Director.
THE CHALLENGE OF PRESERVATION
According to the Secretary of the Interior’s Departmental authority for advising agencies on the preservation of properties, rehabilitation is “the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.”
Challenge 1: Remove the roof without damaging the century-old structure underneath.
It was with great care that the GH Phipps Construction Companies team approached the historic renovation. The team realized careful planning and execution would be required to achieve necessary results, and these efforts had to be accomplished with extreme care due to the fragility of the historic value of this building.
Following Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction), The GH Phipps team strategized a sectional removal with portions of the roof being extracted to avoid any damage. Because this phase of the project was being completed during the winter months, the crew had to protect the newly revealed portions from potential snow, frost, and wind damage.
Challenge 2: Restore the building’s integrity while preserving its past.
As the layers of history were uncovered, it was clear that the structure was in need of stabilization and updates in order to meet current code. The team took time and effort to research various ways to complete the updates with the least amount of impact. Solutions involved Lean Construction in scheduling and procedure. Conveyor belts were needed to move large, heavy cobble from the basement area–some too bulky for a wheelbarrow. The river rock bed had been down there for decades and had to be broken into pieces to be placed on the conveyor belt.
Designing around the antique bank vault was particularly interesting because it was the point where history met modernization, blending the two was vital to success. The vault and original lattice were incorporated into the new office building décor. In one office, the lattice is encased in glass, a beautiful showcase of history.
Challenge 3: Recreate the authenticity of intricate portions of the building.
While much of the original design had been preserved, the years had taken a toll on the details of the pillars and etched carvings, requiring sophisticated, highly specialized work to fully repair the surfaces to their original beauty.
GH Phipps, a 70-year-old company founded in the Rocky Mountain region, holds long-standing relationships with various skilled craftspeople. “We knew this project would require precision and specialized skill. We were incredibly thankful to have trusted resources to give this job the attention it required. Thanks to our relationships, we had no problem staffing this project even as the pandemic began to impact the industry.” Jason Wulf, Project Executive, GH Phipps
Solutions included expertise from a historic preservationist, research into this historic structure, and information on state and national regulations when working with historic places. With standards to preserve all features, even the finest details were recovered, some requiring hand painting on the terracotta with a small brush, blending colors to match the original look.
In the end, GH Phipps preserved the historic materials and features while meeting safety and environmental standards with great respect for the downtown Cañon City area. TEZAK announced their move-in on June 21, 2022.
EVERY CITY IS A GHOST
Prior to Wells Fargo, the bank operated as Fremont National Bank from 1920-2005. In its earliest days, the property was the home of Palace Livery Station, a livery barn for staging and freighting.
In 1921, Ralph Eck of Bankers Construction Company of Denver erected the original bank building, the original architect remains a mystery. Proceeding architectural work includes the 1964 expansion by Marvin Knedler of Denver, a 1973-1974 remodel by Charles Y. Choi of Colorado Springs, and the most recent work by Gregory Friesen of CSNA Architects in Colorado Springs.
The first-known building on the southwest corner lot at Sixth and Main Streets, Palace Livery Station, was constructed in 1871 by Augustus Sartor. Photographs show it as two-story, brick, with five windows and a large front door. This building was demolished along with two others before the bank building was constructed in 1920.
It was during the 1975 era that the façade was placed over the Georgian-style architecture.
The original owners of the Fremont County Bank built in the early 1920s were Frederic A., Joshua, and Jefferson Raynolds. The Fremont County National Bank was one of the oldest financial institutions in Colorado.
TEZAK Heavy Equipment was established in 1989 by Danny Tezak and his father Ed Tezak, Jr. Danny took over the business in 1998 and now works with his sister Rhonda Lewis, CPA.
NEW BUILDINGS RISE UPON THE BONES
Renovation of this historic building involved careful planning and coordination by all members of the design team. The 1970s interior was removed, but the original bank vault remained. The GH Phipps team worked hard to preserve the historic value of the vault and this connection to the past.
This historic preservation project is part of a grant awarded for the preservation of the downtown area. Cañon City’s Historical District named the property at 532 Main Street a local historic site in February 2021.