Work Begins on Historic Cave House Roof

Wed December 17, 2003 - Northeast Edition

Work began in mid-October to replace the roof of the historic Cave House, part of the rehabilitation plan that will turn the former hotel into a national museum of mining and geology.

With select window and door restoration already under way, the combined projects will make the building weather-tight before the onset of winter, according to Clemens McGiver, project architect.

The Cave House was build circa 1865 as a hotel that welcomed visitors to Lester Howe’s famous cave. When completed, the building made of locally cut stone will serve as a museum and visitors center for the attractions planned in the Howes Cave quarry.

Abandoned for three decades, a tornado in 1989 ripped much of the original roof off the Cave House; since then, the interior has suffered severe weather-related damage as well.

Part of the restoration project is to replace a temporary roof installed before last winter. “We would have lost everything inside without the temporary covering,” said McGiver.

When completed, the roof will meet all state and federal requirements for historic preservation.

As weather permits, contractors with Ultra Construction, of West Fulton, are jacking and shoring some of the original rafters, which have shifted over the past century, and installing new sill plates onto the existing stone walls. Its first task was to replace the building’s deteriorated eaves and cornices.

Hemlock “sister” beams are being applied to the original rafters where needed, and a new weather-tight sheathing will cover the entire roof.

A new slate roof — matching the original — can then be installed. The original slate came from a Pennsylvania quarry, according to New York State Museum geologists who have toured the site.

Work in the Howes Cave quarry is being spearheaded by Cobleskill Stone products, which plans to consolidate its stone crushing operations there. Several complementary ventures, such as the Cave House Museum of Mining and Geology, will integrate industry with elements of tourism, education, geology, history and agribusiness.

The huge scope of the project is expected to take several years to complete.