Volunteers have logged over 800 hours working on new performing arts center in Chewelah
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff
The Chewelah Armory and old city shop is looking less and less like that everyday.
Its new life as the Chewelah Center for the Arts building began at the beginning of 2016 and will host its first event before the end of the year. It will be a bittersweet occasion as it will be a memorial for Don McLaughlin – a champion of the Chewelah Center for the Arts and performing arts in the community.
Just months ago, the building, which has a 60-by-80 foot open span had tools, equipment and grease marks from its life as a city shop. Turn on the lights now and you’ll still see an industrial space but one that has been cleaned and prepared for the upcoming memorial.
“We have different Phases, and instead of Phase 1, this is more like Phase .5,” Tom Bristol said.
“The people that come are pretty serious about the work and have been very committed,” Bristol said.
Work parties by members of PACA and other volunteers have taken place every Saturday between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The number usually varies from anywhere between six to 15 people.
So far about 800 volunteer hours have been put into the building and the progress is impressive from where the place was at the beginning of summer.
“The group works hard and is encouraged by the progress,” Bristol said.
PACA, which was formed eight years ago, took over a city building that has proven to be advantageous.
“It’s a concrete building so there’s no deterioration or mold and mildew from its age,” Bristol said. “It’s just concrete. Usually most buildings from the 1950s need work structurally and it’s a lot of expense to restore an older house and they can become money pits.”
Built up to Army Corp of Engineer specs, a building that was meant to be a shelter for when the Russians invaded will now be a showcase space for Chewelah’s performing arts. Being such an open space, the electric heaters meant for the city shop still do the work as temperatures drop. The concrete walls, which can sometimes be unforgiving in cold temps actually serve as large radiators, gathering heat and releasing it slowing in the building.
Things that have already changed is the considerable amount of cleaning, scrubbing and foam insulation being put on the outside walls to help with heating. PACA volunteers organized and put city tools and equipment on 30+ pallets and helped move them over to the new city shop. They’ve sanded down the cement in almost all of the building’s rooms and have put a two-part epoxy on the floor in three of the reams including the foyer. The epoxy coating will give floors the same finish as the Quartzite Brewing Company. A new concrete floor will be poured and installed by Norvell Concrete in the main room. Bob Stevens is also working on the electrical in the building.
Chewelah Painting has also done the primer for the main room and will paint it this week. The company is also helping clean up the shop walls and making them look more like a theatre.
PACA volunteers have also removed the out-of-code cement ramps by the inside doors. The main lights for the building will be replaced with more energy-efficient LED lights.
“We’re going to try to go state-of-the-art with things we need to change,” Bristol said. “The current lights have an audible hum and take 3-5 minutes to turn on. LED lights you can dim and use like house lights.”
With the passing of Don McLaughlin, PACA lost a powerful force and active member of their organization. The outpouring of support and donations by family, friends and community members in and outside of Chewelah has been strong.
The will honor him on Dec. 30, in a building that he helped make a reality.