Main Street in Placerville might soon have a new pair of bookends as the “Red and White” Herrick and Hangman’s Tree buildings at one end of Main join the “Catsup and Mustard” buildings of Old City Hall at the other in restoration.
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Assistant Prof. Tim Taylor, professor of Computer Information Science at Sacramento City College, and his wife, Sue, a building designer, are purchasing the buildings at 301 and 305 Main Street and have assembled a team of preservation craftsmen, including structural engineer Doug Ketron and historical brick mason Leland Petersen to do the work of restoring them to their 1850s appearance.
The Taylors, longtime Camino residents, are committed to restoring the buildings that have been the subject of controversy due to their structural condition and history. The Hangman’s Tree building houses the stump of the tree reputed to be the tree vigilantes used to hang three men in the 1850s, earning Placerville the moniker, “Hangtown.”
The seller, Frank Saunders of the Saunders Co. in Monterey, said, “Hopefully this will be a good thing for Placerville. Our company doesn’t have the wherewithall to handle what the buildings need at this time.”
Saunders said the buildings are in escrow, but declined to be more specific about the price of the buildings or the timeline for the escrow. “It’s not done until it’s done.”
Phase One of the restoration project will be the exterior of both buildings.
“We will restore and repair the brick of the Herrick Building to its original color,” said Taylor, “and since the Hangman’s Tree building was originally a wooden building and then was stuccoed over, we’ll remove the stucco and restore the wood work.”
Phase Two of the project will be to renovate the interior of each building, restoring structural integrity and the original look as well as seismically retrofitting. The buildings will be rented to commercial tenants and other improvements will depend on the nature and needs of the tenants.
Although Taylor said, “Timelines are sticking your neck out,” the couple plans to start obtaining building permits in the next 60 days and move forward as quickly as possible.
“Based on the contractors’ parameters, our goal is to finish the exterior within six months.
Tim Taylor was chief renovation specialist from 1969 to 1971 on the Anasazi Indian site near Blanding, Utah, and was later hired as director of archaeology and restoration for the Edge of the Cedars project by the Utah Navajo Development Council. He plans to conduct an archeological survey of the building site and document the planning and process of the restoration with an eye to publishing a guide to restoring historical buildings.
“We are conversing with local groups about the background and history of the buildings.”
Sue Taylor is a member of Friends of Historical Hangtown, a local organziation.
“I was working with the buildings’ owner, trying to come up with new solutions to save the buildings. I put a craftsman team together and then things evolved and led to the opportunity to make an offer on the buildings,” she said.
FHH member Sharlene McCaslin said of the restoration project, “We didn’t feel the buildings were in as bad shape as everyone seemed to think. With the structural engineer and the historic brick mason, we went from location to location within the buildings and found the scope of work was a series of retrofits and far less expensive than we thought.”
According to McCaslin, as the Friends of Historical Hangtown and the craftsman team got bids for the project , they realized the project was viable.
The Taylors are in the process of assembling the funding package and restoration team, including choosing a contractor.
“We are excited about the project. These buildings are so important to Placerville, ” said Sue Taylor.