Carpentry Restoration of Historic Gillette Gazebo
H.J. Holtz & Son team members often work on older homes, residences that were lovingly and painstakingly crafted in the 19th and 20th centuries. Homes that are now rightfully considered historic and, in many cases, architecturally significant.
But it’s not often that a Holtz craftsperson has the opportunity to rebuild an historic structure.
That’s what happened last summer, when Holtz carpenter Ricky Reid was called to a house whose owners he knew well. He had first worked for the family years ago when he was employed by a renovation firm that was often called in by Holtz & Son for carpentry. A few years ago, when Holtz & Son decided to expand its own carpentry division, Reid switched companies.
The homeowners have been Holtz & Son customers for decades, relying on the company for painting and wallpapering both in their house and a commercial office space. Their residential property, in the city’s West End, features gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Charles Gillette, who designed the landscaping plan for the University of Richmond campus. Gillette is well known in Richmond for residential gardens that include formal elements alongside natural trees and shrubs. At this property, a highlight among the plantings and sculpted walkways is an elegant gazebo, perfectly situated for a warm weather respite.
In 2007, the Holtz team painted the historic gazebo for a daughter’s wedding. But by summer 2020, noticing what they thought was termite damage, the homeowners contacted H.J. Holtz & Son for repairs.
“It wasn’t just termites, it was ants,” Reid says. “We didn’t know the extent of the damage [until we took the gazebo apart]. It’s a miracle that structure didn’t blow down. When we pulled out the posts, they disintegrated. It was basically a shell of paint holding the roof up.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” he adds.
Because the destruction was so extensive, it was impossible to determine the wood that was originally used or to see details in the historic gazebo design. Luckily, Reid had access to the original Gillette plan, which was passed to the homeowners when they purchased the property.
“They were actually blue, with every detail you could imagine,” Reid says, noting that he only had one post out of eight that remained sufficiently intact for him to see what a finished post should look like.
Using the plans, Reid used fir wood to remake the posts, benches and the rafter tails under the roof. For the open latticework, which creates the gazebo’s “windows,” Reid used PVC. “I did the best we could as far as materials,” he said. “I tried to improve on what was there [originally].”
While many Holtz & Son projects use a team approach, this was a solo job, which Reid says he preferred. “I needed to be left alone to figure it out by myself,” he says. “I could think better. I was more efficient that way.”
The homeowners are thrilled with their new and historically accurate gazebo. “Ricky paid great attention to the detail involved and rebuilt it to the original specifications,” the homeowner says. “He was very thorough and did a wonderful job.”