Case Studies

Grunwell-Cashero Co.: Preserving America’s Architectural Past for Future Generations

  • Written by: Grunwell-Cashero Co.: Preserving America's Architectural Past for Future Generations
  • Produced by: Grunwell-Cashero Co.: Preserving America's Architectural Past for Future Generations
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Fidell Cashero Sr. purchased Roy Grunwell’s construction enterprise in 1953, setting the wheels in motion to build a company that today has almost 60 years of experience in building restoration and a legacy of superior craftsmanship. Hands-on experience and a great respect for historic architecture go hand-in-hand at Grunwell-Cashero Co. (GCC). However, it is the GCC team’s ability to make the most of modern technology that ensures every stone it touches will look as good as it did on Day One, while also being prepared to last at least another century. As a result, GCC can mobilize its talent to assist clients in person or in a purely consulting capacity, allowing the team’s knowledge to save architectural gems virtually anywhere in the world.

“We have a very lengthy experience in the building restoration industry, so it’s not uncommon for architects or engineers to call on our help in a consulting capacity,” expands Tony Sabo, senior vice president at GCC. Tony joined the construction industry over 30 years ago as a laborer, but his passion for quality craftsmanship eventually led him to take a job at GCC roughly 18 years ago. Fidell started at the bottom, too, working his way up to help what would later become GCC restore many of Detroit’s most treasured architectural gems.

Over the years, Fidell and the GCC team played a major role in preserving Detroit’s famed Fisher Building, an Art Deco treasure rising 30 stories high. The building was completed in 1928 and is widely considered to be architect Joseph Nathaniel French’s greatest achievement. GCC and Fidell have completed all manner of restoration projects on the building, from replacing its dome to completely re-secure the building’s massive limestone cladding panels with new anchors and gingerly refreshing the building’s gilded barrel vaulted ceiling.

The Detroit-based company is now run by Fidell’s lineage. Scott Cashero, Fidell’s son and president of GCC, as well as Jelane Cashero-Raycraft, Fidell’s granddaughter and vice president of GCC, run the company alongside Fidell A. Cashero III, Fidell’s grandson and project manager at GCC. The three have successfully maintained offices in both Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, giving GCC the flexibility to travel across the Midwest for clients in need of its multidisciplinary experience. The company employs a total of roughly 120 professionals, each of whom brings centuries of combined expertise to every building restoration project. This level of experience translates to continued success, enhancing GCC’s legacy of pioneering building restoration techniques.

Tradition Meets Technology

Masonry restoration has been GCC’s bread and butter for many years now, but the company has also folded in specialists to form a full-service historic preservation contracting operation. GCC maintains a staff to perform general contracting components, as well as waterproofing, coatings, and concrete and parking garage rehabilitation. GCC also offers façade inspections, providing complete documentation and recommendations for greater peace of mind.

Above all GCC prides itself on maintaining the utmost respect for the historic structures the team helps to rehabilitate. To note, the team considers it a privilege to be a part of every project. GCC has the technology to take a mortar sampling from an inconspicuous area to analyze the mortar’s formulation. In some cases, GCC learns more about why a specific system might be showing signs of wear, but GCC can also use the sample to ensure the restoration work matches the original work exactly. Original stonework is repaired if necessary, and reinstalled with an extra waterproof coating if GCC determines it to be particularly at risk of future deterioration. If an original stone is too damaged for reuse, GCC can call upon its team of in-house masons to create an exact replica.

GCC’s extensive expertise makes the company one of the premier contractors for challenging jobs with little room for error. The team’s skills were put to the test once again in 2010 when the Detroit Public Library enlisted GCC to complete a replacement to the terracotta parapet atop its Main Branch building, which dates back to 1921. “It’s definitely one of our most interesting projects,” admits Sabo, who oversaw all of the work himself. Over the course of 10 months, GCC’s skilled craftsmen removed over 350 terracotta components weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. These components were then individually and painstakingly color-matched for total accuracy, fired and replaced.

Insisting on Excellence

GCC completed a project at Pease Auditorium on Eastern Michigan University’s campus in Ypsilanti, Mich., in 2008 that called for the same attention to detail. GCC came on to replace the auditorium’s original terracotta facade along the building’s front entrance, eventually replacing the corroded steel support structure as well. “The project called for us to completely take apart the building’s façade to clean it and put it back together,” chuckles Sabo.

GCC replaced over 500 terracotta stones using molds made from the originals, while crews carried out additional brick repointing, replacement and resealing work. The company also replaced the building’s original wood windows and doors, as well as carrying out additional repairs to the building’s cornice and interior plaster.

The company was selected yet again to help preserve a piece of Detroit’s history in June 2012. GCC landed the contract to restore a portion of the Detroit Institute of the Arts in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. “We will essentially be taking apart one of its grandest marble staircases,” adds Sabo. The staircase is comprised of marble slabs, some of which weigh over 500 pounds each, which will be refinished, resealed and reset. GCC will also add an extra layer of surface consolidator to harden the surface even further and protect it from decades of wear and tear yet to come.

As GCC wraps up work for another on-time completion for fall 2012, the company will also prepare to celebrate its 60-year anniversary in 2013. Though the celebration details have yet to be fully pinned down, the company’s experience and reputation for unparalleled quality craftsmanship will ensure the Grunwell-Cashero Co. name lives on in the Midwest’s architectural treasures.

Published on: March 16, 2013

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