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Brick repointing workshop participants Lisa Davies and Bob Dixon are pictured in the foreground as Linda Dixon and Brian Ellison work on the repairs of a wall on the old Mitchell's Hardware building. 

About 12 participants of the Waterville Historic Preservation Commission’s Brick Repointing Workshop May 22 had the chance to learn the basics of repairing brick walls on historic buildings, while at the same time getting the chance to put their newly learned knowledge into practice.

Mayor Jill Thompson said the hands-on element of the class was a big help to participants.

“It made it seem so approachable and simple,” Thompson said, adding the class was a lot of fun.

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Workshop instructor Brian Ellison gets ready to demonstrate repair of a hole in the brick wall at the old Mitchell's Hardware building as participant Cathy Clark looks on. 

The workshop was conducted by Brian Ellison, owner of Ellison Stone Masonry, Ltd. of Plain. Owners of Waterville’s historic brick buildings as well as interested members of the public were invited to attend.

According to Cathy Clark, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission board, Ellison began the workshop by giving instructions on proper mortar removal for the soft bricks of the historic buildings then demonstrated some techniques. He explained how to make mortar and showed attendees how to apply it properly.

Attendees were given the chance to practice the skills they had been taught using tools Ellison had demonstrated.

Then it was time to put their skills to practice on a real project—fixing a gaping hole on the side of the hardware store building. Participants helped to remove the loose bricks and clean them. They mixed up new batches of mortar and Ellison demonstrated how to replace the three rows of bricks that make up the wall of the building.

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Cathy Clark demonstrates the completed repair of the Mitchell's wall on May 24. 

After letting the area dry for several hours, Ellison, Clark and Thompson returned to finish off the front face of the bricks. Some of the group applied a gentle spray of water over the next two mornings to keep the mortar from drying too fast.

Another fun hands-on aspect of the project was getting to eat freshly cooked pizza for lunch. This was provided by Matt Houser of Plain Holding LLP.

The workshop was funded by a Valerie Svinski Grant from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

The grant also enabled the Commission to purchase some brick repointing tools and supplies that will be available for Waterville historic building owners to borrow through town hall.

Clark said she felt the workshop was very important because it cut through the intimidation many building owners have about needed repairs.

“The more we show owners of historic buildings that these things are doable, the more they are willing,” Clark said.

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Cathy Clark wets down the wall at the repair site May 24 in order to keep the mortar from drying too quickly. 

Bruce Clark who attended the workshop added that brick repair in Waterville’s historic district is a huge need. Buildings are visibly crumbling on the outside because the work has not been done for so many years.

“It really is important that we save our buildings,” he said.

Thompson said the Historic Preservation Commission members have decided to put their skills into practice working on repairing the brickwork on the parapets at Elite Woodworking the third Saturday in September. She said board members are also looking for additional grant funding to help owners with building repairs.

For more information about the Historic Preservation Commission and the masonry project, contact town hall at 745-8871.