Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Charitone update: Plumbing, heating & electrical

I end up taking a lot of photos of our newspaper guy, Bill Howes, taking photos of the same things I'm shooting --- we're each other's natural hazard (I get in his way a lot, too). But this photo, taken on the third floor of the Charitone, is a major coup --- Martin Buck is in the distance taking a snapshot of Bill (taking notes) while I take a photo of both. Wonderful. Raymond Meyer, who was leading the walk-through, managed to avoid both cameras, as did all of the guys actually working on the building.

We're standing just outside the entrance to a small study in the third-floor west apartment, the one that looks down on Piper's to the west and toward the courthouse from its southwest corner. Martin is standing in the living room with the kitchen between us. Bathroom is to the left of the study and, behind us to the north, are two bedrooms, one with windows facing west; the other, with an eastward view.

Here's another view south from the northwest bedroom, this one with Bill just stepping through into the bathroom, where the shower already is in place.

As anyone who has been following the Charitone project should know by now, there are four apartments on each of the upper three floors for a total of 12. There are four unique apartment designs on each floor, configured to fit the building's shape and size and stacked one above the other. All three west apartments look like this; the south and east apartments on each floor are two-bedroom units, too; and the north apartment on each floor has only one bedroom, but a somewhat larger living area.

This little study (or dressing room) makes the west apartments my favorites --- a good place to keep piles of paper out of sight.

Each bathroom will contain, in addition to the usual amenities, a stacked washer and dryer. Nine of the apartment bathrooms are equipped with walk-in showers; the other three, with tubs.


Not too much activity has been evident outside the Charitone during June because the focus has shifted inside, where apartments have been framed and wiring, plumbing and heating/cooling units are being installed. Drywall on interior walls (plaster on exterior walls except on the fourth floor in order to meet Department of the Interior restoration guidelines) will be the next step.

Here's a photo of fresh plaster work on the exterior walls of the southeast bedroom of the third-floor-east apartment. This is how walls in the original Charitone were finished, which is the reason for new plaster rather than drywall now. Because the interior of the Charitone had been gutted long before the Lucas County Preservation Alliance acquired it, plaster isn't required elsewhere.

All of the windows now have been removed. Those taken from the west and south facades are being restored at The Stained Glass Store in Des Moines, one of the Midwest's premier restorers of vintage windows, stained-glass and otherwise. New windows are being built for the north and east facades. The translucent plastic that replaced plywood boarding over the windows when they were removed now allows light to flood into the building.

At least one window per floor remains open, however, to allow building materials to be lifted and brought inside. Here's the view toward the courthouse from a room in the third-floor-south apartment.


I was interested in the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heating/cooling system now being installed, too. The occupant of each apartment will control his or her own climate destiny with room units, each hooked to outdoor condensing units that will be placed on the reconstructed roof of the Annex, just east of the hotel proper.

This type of system uses refrigerant as both the heating and cooling medium and is highly energy efficient. This is the unit in the ceiling of the northwest bedroom of the third-floor-west apartment.


If exterior activity has been limited during June, that is scheduled to change dramatically during July, according to Raymond.

A big chunk of the project's $5.5 million price tag will be devoted to exterior utilities, including new storm and sanitary sewer lines. These will extend a block north along North Main Street to its intersection with Roland Avenue. The east sidewalk will be replaced along this stretch of North Main, too, as well as along Braden Avenue from North Main to the alley just east of the Annex. Chariton's ARS Construction is the major contractor for this phase of the project.

Beyond that, work will begin soon to install the tenant parking lot, just north of the hotel; to rebuild the roof and upper courses of brickwork on the Annex, preparing it to support the VRF condensers; to install the ground-level north entrance to the building; and of course, to install restored and newly built windows.

Inside, the first-floor goal is to complete the "vanilla box" --- undeveloped space equipped with utility connections --- that Hy-Vee will need to install the new restaurant there. 

No specific plans have been made for the basement, high, dry and well-lighted once windows have been reinstalled because window wells once sealed with concrete have been reopened. That space will remain open for redevelopment.


The drive to raise the remaining $550,000 needed to fully fund the $5.5 million Charitone project continues. Anyone who would like to make tax-deductible cash contributions may do so, payable to Lucas County Preservation Alliance and mailed to the Alliance at P.O. Box 678, Chariton, IA 50049.

Raymond C. Meyer is the contact person for those who wish to discuss potential contributions or obtain further information about investing in or living at the Charitone. He may be reached at (641) 774-2179 or

And don't forget the Charitone's Facebook page, which is located here.

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