Restoration of one of Fort Worth’s architectural treasures included a collaborative effort that left local commercial general contractor Muckleroy & Falls team members with plenty of pride.
Muckleroy & Falls coordinated with Elements of Architecture, subcontractors and Fort Worth city officials to bring the iconic Pioneer Tower back to life.
The Will Rogers Memorial Center was built in 1936 using a mixture of classical revival and moderne styles via architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, according to the Fort Worth Architecture website.
When first completed, Pioneer Tower was designed with columns of glass-blocks on each side that were illuminated at night. However, the glass block features were covered with metal plates in the late 1970s, and the tower was dark after that.
The tower is built of concrete framing, clad with limestone and brick. The corners are accentuated with stepped pilasters, lighted lanterns and crowned with an aluminum cap. At the base of the tower there is a large room with a high domed ceiling and a bronze bust of Will Rogers.
Along with the pride felt by Muckleroy & Falls workers came stronger leg calves from climbing the 208-foot tall structure day after day.
The $4 million project officially involved cleaning the exterior brick and stone, installing new glass block and interior LED lights, strengthening the structure with X-bracing and applying a fiber-reinforced polymer wrap for structural reinforcement at the seventh-level landing area.
The clean-up involved removing years – and possibly decades – of excrement from hawks and pigeons that had nested in the Pioneer Tower. The timing was critical because the project had to be completed before the start of the April-May nesting season.
Muckleroy &Falls ensured architectural integrity and kept the historic renovation accurate by ordering glass block from Seves Glassblock, the Sweden-based world’s leading manufacturer of the product. Each piece of glass block was 6 X 6 inches square and four inches deep.
The original Argus pattern manufacturer had closed almost three years before the project began, so Seves acquired the pattern from that company’s former owners. Muckleroy & Falls’ procurement team understood that the Argus pattern had not been in production for more than 20 years.
They engaged highly trained masons to install the complicated glass block on all four sides of the Pioneer Tower.
The team faced three critical timing issues: the egg-laying season of the hawks, the tight window for manufacturing the supply of glass block, and the opening of the Dickies Arena. While this single project required 6,400 pieces of the glass block, Seves crafted 15,000 pieces to justify the production effort.
Muckleroy & Falls deals with tight deadlines on all projects and the lack of availability of this specific glass block presented a major challenge. They were required to wait almost 10 weeks to get in line for their share of the product and then another 12 weeks for actual production and delivery from Sweden.
The Muckleroy & Falls team accommodated the hawks that had lived inside the tower by consulting and coordinating their relocation with wildlife experts.
The clean-up of what had been a deserted structure was intense, with bird droppings – from large hawks! – creating a massive and fragrant mess. They began cleaning from the base inside the Pioneer Tower and then graduated to the 208 feet of stairs. The lowest levels of the structure were pitch black, so the brought in lights.
Team members had heard about the reputation of a haunted building, and the tower had its share of unusual creaking and squeaking noises.
Markings along the interior walls were apparently from two maintenance workers approximately 30 years ago, as they spray-painted notes for each other as they climbed to the highest levels.
Project superintendent Brendan Redwine climbed to the 208-foot top of the tower several times each day to inspect the scaffolding and ensure the project remained on schedule.
The Muckleroy & Falls team survived the haunting legends and reported that they experienced absolutely no supernatural encounters.
After over 50 years of darkness, the Pioneer Tower shines brightly as it reflects Fort Worth pride overlooking a new Fort Worth icon: the new Dickies Arena.
– FWBP Staff