HISTORY OF N.O. NELSON
For years, the N.O. Nelson factory building, just outside of Edwardsville Illinois, lay in ruins. However, in 2002, Lewis and Clark Community College, in conjunction with the Edwardsville school district, planned a large scale renovation of this historic building, converting it into a teaching center for both the college and the high school. Recognized by the State of Illinois as a registered historical marker, the N.O. Nelson building has over a hundred years of heritage within its walls.
In 1877, the civil order of St. Louis nearly disappeared amongst clashes between the laboring workforce and brutal business management. 12 hour a day and 7 day workweeks may have resulted in huge profits, but it also resulted in a turnover rate nearly 500% among the labor force. From this turmoil, Mr. N. O. Nelson emerged, with business ideas nearly 100 years ahead of his time.
Nelson originally founded his plumbing fixture company in St. Louis, but quickly relocated to a tract of land just outside of Edwardsville. There he constructed a company and a surrounding community with a unique moral, labor, and social standards.
Mr. Nelson had quite unique ideals. Not only did he offer all of his workers profit sharing, but he offered vacations, and flexible working schedules to ensure all of his laborers were kept happy and healthy. The ideas and comments of all of his workers were highly valued. Surrounding his factory, he constructed affordable housing units for his workers. There was even a greenhouse and dairy farm which offered free plants, produce, and dairy products for all of the community. Mr. Nelson even constructed a baseball and football field, bowling alley, tennis court, and theater building for the community.
The N.O. Nelson Company, at one point, was the largest manufacturer of plumbing goods for the Western United States. Sadly, the N.O. Nelson factory produced its last product in 1948. The historic building was sold to the Wagner Electric Corporation and was then abandoned in 1957. For nearly half a century, the N.O. Nelson factory was vacant, and quickly deteriorating; that is until its groundbreaking restoration in 2002.
MASONRY RESTORATION PERFORMED AT N.O. NELSON
Plocher Construction, one of the contractors for the renovation, employed James G. Staat Tuckpointing to restore the Nelson factory's 100+ year old brick exterior. In the beginning, the building was nothing more than a dilapidated shell. Most of the walls were falling down or severely damaged, however, due to the historic nature of the building, Staat Tuckpointing went to great lengths to preserve the building and restore it to its original shape.
Because the brick on the structure were over one hundred years old, it was tough to get a perfect match. We scoured every used brick-yard and spent hours gathering what matches we could find. However, we still could not round up enough brick that was necessary for the large amount of reconstruction required. The resolve this challenge, the Staat Tuckpointing crew actually disassembled sections of brick from the buildings interior and relocated them to the exterior. The interior brick, which was to be covered anyway, could then be replaced with new brick. This allowed the Nelson building to be restored to perfectly match its original design.
On top of a great deal of reconstruction, the entire building required historical tuckpointing. Many portions of the building though, had mortar caked over the face of the brick were improper tuckpointing attempts had been made. This mortar was removed and the mortar joints were grinded clean. Staat Tuckpointing then re-pointed the entire building to match its original mortar color, type, and design. The brick were then washed to brighten the appearance. However, the crews had to be careful not to damage the delicate brick. This meant careful mixing of all the cleaning chemicals as well as knowledgeable application.
The final step in the restoration process was to apply water-repellants to the structure. James G. Staat Tuckpointing applied water-repellant to thousands of square feet of the historic building, not only sealing in the beauty of the restored masonry, but also ensuring the masonry will stay beautiful for years to come.