Historic renovation following a fire a difficult task

Restoring history: What it takes to rebuild following a fire

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – "We will rebuild."

That’s the message Tuesday from French President Emanuel Macron following the devastating fire at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral.

Fire burned for several hours Monday, destroying the 850-year-old cathedral’s iconic spire; the roof constructed of 13th-century also was destroyed. The main concern is for the structural integrity of the cathedral, as so much has been reduced to ashes.

After the world watched it burn, millions will follow its journey back to glory. The task may seem daunting, and it brings back memories for those who helped restore a historic piece of the city of Louisville after it burned. While on a much smaller scale, rebuilding Whiskey Row was a massive job. Trying to renovate the crumbling buildings was hard enough, but once the property caught fire in 2015, it seemed that bit of Louisville history was destined to die.

Courageous firefighters, investors, city leaders and owners, however, were determined not to let that happen. PLC Management’s Ron Carmicle is one of those people. He recalled getting a call from developer Craig Greenberg in the late afternoon of July 6, 2015.

“Craig called me about 5 o’clock,” Carmicle told WAVE 3 News on Tuesday. “He (asked), ‘Is there something going on at Whiskey Row?’”

Flames going up, history coming down.

Carmicle, who’s worked much of his life in construction and development, also watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral came down.

“When I saw that steeple fall,” he said. “I understand all the work that goes in and to see it burn down is just upsetting.”

Carmicle then reflected on his Whiskey Row experience.

“It’s time and money, and I find out we have time and people who are putting up their money,” he said.

Carmicle remembered marveling at the artistry of the cathedral in person, and said the nightmare of the Whiskey Row fire returned. He recalled the brick, cast iron, limestone and timbers of the late 1800′s left smoking.

“Probably 24 hours after the fire, we were concerned (whether the) balance of the building was going to fall down,” he said.

In 48 hours, architects, structural engineers, investors and owners agreed it was worth saving. Huge concrete boxes and beams were set up to stabilize the walls so work could be done safely. Left with just those walls, crews went 30 feet below ground to set up the foundation. He said that while Louisville’s historic renovation after fire is hundreds of years younger than the cathedral, they have pride and hope in common.

Carmicle, who once stayed at the hotel across from the cathedral, said he thinks it will flourish once again.

“The good news is, hopefully there’s an opportunity to salvage,” he said. “I’m confident they’ll be able to build that back, it’ll just take some time.”

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