‘Fire won’t delay restoration’

2009-08-13 00:00

RESTORATION work is well under way in the fire-damaged Colonial Building and completion is expected by the original deadline — June 2010.

The only feature that may take longer is the rebuilding of the imposing central dome, a distinctive feature of the historic building that was gutted in the fire.

Maritzburgers will not see the dome for a while, but it is definitely going to be rebuilt. With luck it may even be completed by deadline.

Project architect Nick Grice said plans are being drawn up for the central dome from photographs, as there are no similar original structures to copy. Replicating the two smaller domes will not be a problem, he added, because exact replicas stand on the opposite side of the building, which was not affected by the fire.

According to Grice, the challenge now is to get the roof in place before the rainy season starts, so that the restoration work already carried out within the building is preserved.

It will be a race against time. Even before construction of the roof gets under way the entire second floor, which collapsed in the fire, has to be rebuilt so that scaffolding can be erected to reach the roof.

He said it is proving to be both a complex and a fascinating exercise for the construction team.

The timber available today is not of the same strength as the original beams.

In addition there are wedges built into the walls to accommodate the beams, and the builders have to get the heights and angle­s exactly right to fit the wedges.

The domes were all made of timber shaped and moulded by master craftsmen and covered in sheets of lead to protect them from the elements and to give the building a long lifespan.

However, when the building was left to stand empty from 1997, thieves began removing the copper and lead from the roof, leaving gaping holes. Rainfall in the ensuing 11 years caused extensive damage to the interior .

Grice said the new domes are going to be built in steel as this is a lighter and simpler material to work with.

The idea is to get the steel structure prefabricated and then lifted by crane to the top of the building.

Grice said that at this stage they are hopeful that they will find the craftsmen to replicate some of the intricate lead work used in the design of the original dome.

Renovations started in July 2008 and Grice said good progress has been made. He pointed out that the Colonial Building complex is extensive and stretches from Church Street to Pietermaritz Street. Work was carried out simultaneously in all sections.

Fortunately, says Grice, the fire-damaged section is a small part of the larger complex.

The extent of the progress on the project is clearly visible from the Pietermaritz Street side. 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.