If you drive around the square today, Labor Day, chances are that you'll find Randy Roster laboring --- at work on the final phase of what has been the most complex project involved in the Courthouse Square Historic District's Facade Improvement Program, which began last fall.
Now 60 and head of Ottumwa-based Roster Tuckpointing Co., Roster has been doing this kind of work --- repair, restoration, maintenance and when necessary reconstruction of vintage masonry --- since he was 17. That's 43 years.
"I love what I do," Randy said Sunday after cutting a brick to size on the sidewalk in front of the 1869 Manning & Penick Building as diners walked toward Casa De Oro restaurant, two doors north. "I tell people that if they don't love what they do, they should find something else to do."
Crews from Roster Tuckpointing have repaired and restored masonry on all the facades involved in Chariton's historic district project (the 15-building project was bid and implemented as a unit, so workers from various contractors have moved from structure to structure as needed during the last year).
Work on the north half of Manning & Penick, home to the K. Threlkeld Agency, was among the most extensive and complex, so it began last. Decorative elements of the three-story facade had been stripped away during the latter half of the 20th Century, although the original arch-topped windows had been stored on the top floor and were taken away months ago to be restored.
Randy and his workers now have reopened and restored the arched window openings on the second and third floors, into which the restored window frames have been inserted, and currently are replicating the original 1869 triple-arched street-level facade.
Roster is originally from Vinton, which he describes as having been the "capital" of tuckpointing/masonry repair in Iowa --- up to five firms doing the kind of work he specializes in headquartered there at one time. Randy himself has crews at work now in Garner, Osage and elsewhere in Iowa and has participated in a number of projects similar to the one now nearing completion in Chariton.
Nearly everything here is Iowa-based. The brick that he is using was manufactured in Adel. And the limestone elements --- some already in place with others to come --- were quarried and shaped by Weber Stone Co. in northeast Iowa's iconic Stone City.