Within every historic renovation are modern materials that integrate a project’s past with today’s code requirements and products. Varco Pruden builder LGM Construction found creative solutions to meet sustainability guidelines in the construction of the Kennedy Tailing Wheel Preservation & Access Project.
The Jackson, California-based construction company worked to rehabilitate one of the rare surviving relics that symbolize the state’s gold mining past. Before the recent restoration, the Kennedy Tailing Wheels were probably the most neglected of all the historic landmarks in Jackson.
In the early 1900s, the massive wheels were essential components of the area’s gold mining operation and part of the first engineered project in the industry invented to protect the environment. In January 1911, 20 inches of torrential rain propelled tons of mine waste downstream causing nearby creek beds to overflow onto farms. Affected agriculurists in surrounding counties negotiated an agreement with mine owners requiring them to impound their waste by December of 1914. As part of an environmentally-friendly solution, four distinctive mechanical tailing wheels were constructed at the Kennedy Gold Mine (now Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park). The wheels were designed to lift mining waste slurry from the Kennedy Mine stamp mill up 200 feet over two hills to an impoundment dam to prevent the waste from reaching streams and creeks and polluting the valley floor.
In 1942 when the mine closed, the corrugated metal buildings that were built to enclose the four tailing wheels were removed and sold – leaving the four large wooden wheel structures exposed to the elements.
In 2012, a campaign was launched by the “Save the Wheel” committee to preserve and protect one of the two remaining Kennedy Tailing Wheels, landmarks featured on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
The state of California awarded a grant to the city of Jackson to preserve one of the wheels by constructing a structure similar to the ones that originally housed all four wheels. LGM Construction took on the renovation project – enclosing the 50-foot-tall wheel in a large, 2,176 square-foot, metal-based structure for preservation and protection from the elements.
Designed and engineered by Varco Pruden, the metal structure is 57 feet tall with large window walls on each side to allow a full view of the historic tailing wheel. Varco Pruden’s Rigid Frame solid web framing solution was used to increase the interior space. Both the roof and the walls were constructed using insulated sandwich panels.
Today, the wheel stands at Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park. The wheel is an iconic symbol of the city and one of the most significant artifacts of California’s golden age of quartz mining.
The historic park reopened in the fall of 2013 after a complete renovation and the completion of the wheel restoration project. Now and for generations to come, the trailing wheel will stand protected and preserved for visitors to view a direct connection to the historic past of Jackson, Calif.
For more information about the “Save the Wheel” fundraising efforts, visit http://ci.jackson.ca.us/SaveTheWheel/.
For more information and historical photos, visit the Kennedy Gold Mine website at www.kennedygoldmine.com.