Scaffolding going up around Wheeler Opera House for third year |

Scaffolding going up around Wheeler Opera House for third year

Entire masonry project is expected to be completed later this year

People walk by the still shuttered Wheeler Opera House as the restoration project continues on a spring day in downtown Aspen in April 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Scaffolding is going back up around the Wheeler Opera House on Thursday as part of a multi-year masonry project that has seen delays due to supply issues and an expanded scope of work because of the condition of the stone on the exterior of the historic building.

Construction crews were expected to mobilize this past Monday but weather delayed them until later this week, according to Rob Schober, the city’s capital asset director.

The remaining work that is expected to be completed by the end of June is on the south and west side of the building, with scaffolding installed on the Hyman Avenue side, around on the front entrance to the restaurant and 7 feet down Mill Street.

The scaffolding is required to finish the stone replacement on the lower portion of the building, according to Perry Kleespies, the city’s senior project manager.

As soon as the scaffolding is down, there will be brick repair and replacement on west and alley side of the building in which a lift will be used.

The existing parapet cap must be removed and replaced on the west side of the building to repair the upper course of brick.

The railing that sits on top of the parapet cap on the roof also will be removed, repainted and reinstalled.

While the railing is down, it will be extended past the roof hatch to the north to provide additional safety.

The entire project was supposed to be completed last spring after the original schedule, which was planned to be phased in 2021 and 2022, was accelerated since COVID-19 shuttered the Wheeler Opera House operations due to the pandemic.

The project schedule in 2020 was to complete as much work as possible on the east side of the building before Christmas. It was planned to demobilize before the holiday season with a re-mobilization in the spring to complete the remaining work.

Last year, nearly the entire façade of the building was covered with scaffolding as crews continued to find more damage to the peach blow sandstone quarried in the 1880s in the Fryingpan Valley, which was the original material used for the 133-year-old building.

Couple that with a shortage of the stone needed to finish the work, as well as a lack of workers in the quarry in Wyoming, and the $2 million project continued to drag on.

What’s more, the quarry was not producing the yield of quality stone per ton that Summit Sealants and Restoration, which is overseeing the project, had assumed in their original order. That’s because the stone had natural fissures and cracks that were reducing the amount of quality, carvable stone per ton.

Schober said all of the stone necessary to finish the project has been procured and is ready for carving offsite.