Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eureka Earthqauke 2010

Many people reading this already know that Eureka had a 6.5 magnitude earthquake on January 9Th of this year. Most agree that we were "lucky", and that a majority of the damage was cosmetic. However the buildings that were most affected by the earthquake were the older ones that hadn't been retrofitted with seismic upgrades.

One such building is the Old Town Bar and Grill which suffered an estimated $700,000 in damages and was slated to be demolished. This beautiful brick building was built in 1908 and has been a home to many operations including a dance hall. The interior has ornate fixtures and woodworking. A structural engineer determined that the front facade was separating from the building and could fall at any moment. There was also significant damage to the east wall along the roof line- a portion of which collapsed. On Jan 11Th the Eureka city council had voted to approve the demolition of the building, although there were many present who wanted it saved for it for its historic value. Then on Thursday the 21st of January the building was bought in a last minute deal. The new owner plans to quickly fix the immediate safety hazards, then spend 12 to 18 months retrofitting the building keeping its historic fabric. He has a track record of restoring the historic Vance Hotel, Professional Building (also multi-story brick), and the original State Theater (Arkley Center).
Other commercial buildings damaged by the earthquake include the old federal building post office at 514 H with an estimated 1 million dollars in damages, the Carson Block building (built in 1892) with 200,000 dollars in damage, The Eureka Municipal Auditorium (the Grateful Dead played here in 1968), the Lloyd Building and the recently restored Arkley Center.
Older residences were not spared either. Around town you see many yellow signs on front doors designating them with "restricted use". These homes have some serious foundation problems, cracking and shifting. Zig-zag cracks run through bricks and mortar, chimneys crumbled and fell and caution tape is everywhere.

This shingle home on historic Hillsdale Street saw its entire free standing chimney fall to the sidewalk below. Many chimneys in Eureka suffered the same fate. In many cases the mortar in these chimneys is deteriorating and needed to be re-pointed many years ago. Often these chimneys had no reinforcement making them ill equipped to stand up in repeated earthquakes, as Humboldt County has.

A house near and dear to many of our hearts in the HPRT program is the Annie B Ryan House at 1000 F Street in Eureka (our current Field School). The Annie B. stood up pretty well to the quake considering that she was built in 1892 and was vacant and run down for 20 plus years of her life. This spring we go back to work on her in the field school class, after a two semester hiatus. Upon post earthquake inspection we found that Annie B. sustained most of her damage to the chimney below the 1st floor. The chimney simply blew out from the back and forth force of the quake. Plywood screwed to house as temporary skirting was also ripped from the house from motion of the quake, which gave us the sense of “racking” the foundation frame experienced.
Some small cracks in the older plaster walls appeared, and we found that the two rooms that students restored the plaster ceiling and walls came through the shaking unscathed (good quality work!). Although this is by no means a good thing, the Annie B. is a hands-on field school that gives us another opportunity to learn and fix problems that occur as a result of the environment we live in. It seems that the chimney footing will become a working lesson in the plaster and masonry class starting in March.

This home on California Street was one of the worst casualties of the quake. It slipped several feet off its foundation and crashed down to the ground. Its front porch collapsed as well. It is currently restricted from any use, but rumor has it that the interior of the home and bones remain intact and that it will perhaps be lifted back onto a retrofitted concrete foundation. The local newspaper article stated the owner as saying she had a glass of wine on the kitchen countertop that was still standing, unspilled.
All in all I would say that our historic redwood homes did pretty well considering, with some retrofitting, maintenance and love they could be here for another hundred years.


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