Raising Grant's Drug Store is a critical milestone in the building's renovation
People can get a “lift” from place to place by calling a taxi or by the generosity of a friend or family member.
Buildings, too, can get a “lift.” Such is the case with the historic Grant’s Drug Store, which crews “lifted” as much as six inches to correct settling at the 1830s-era structure.
The work on Tuesday represents a milestone to reopen the historic building on the corner of Main and Hill Streets in downtown Hannibal to the public. Henry Sweets, Executive Director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, said the building won’t be open for another couple of years while renovation work takes place.
This week, though, crews are using jacks to raise portions of the structure to get it into plumb conditions.
“Having gone through many floods, there had been a lot of deterioration that had happened,” Sweets said.
It’s unclear exactly how many times waters from the nearby Mississippi River got into the building prior to the completion of the Hannibal flood wall in 1993.
Sweets said that by the time the structure was given to the city of Hannibal in the 1950s, settling of the beams had already taken place.
The city worked to stabilize the building then in its present condition, with whatever settling had already occurred.
“That was all just arrested in place,” Sweets said.
As an example, Sweets offered, when a visitor ascended the staircase in the structure, there was a definite downward pitch to the hallway on the second floor.
“The building itself was really unsafe for people to go into because we didn’t know the strength of these timbers that were askew,” he said.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the structural integrity of the building, it has remained shuttered for several years awaiting renovations.
A noticeable difference had already taken place by noon Tuesday. A portion of the balcony facing Main St. had previously bowed slightly downward. Now, the middle of the balcony bowed slightly upwards following straightening efforts on a portion of the building Tuesday.
To complete the work, the building had to be stripped down to its “skeleton” — with everything but the structural beams and roof removed. Once the building is restored to plumb condition, the exterior will be put on and work will begin on strengthening the interior vertical beams.
“We will have it very structurally sound and safe for the public again,” Sweets. “At this point, we are literally saving the building by strengthening it.”
The weather has so far cooperated, with unseasonably warm weather allowing for more work days.
Work on Grant’s Drug Store is a part of an overall renovation plan for the buildings of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum that started with work on the home itself in the early 1990s.
Renovations to the Justice of the Peace Law Office wrapped up last year and permanent exhibitions at the Becky Thatcher House also opened in 2016.
Reach editor Eric Dundon at firstname.lastname@example.org .