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by Marsha Brown

Fort Worth – The first time RBR Construction President Richard Ringo saw the Santa Fe Depot in Brownwood, he knew this wasn’t just another renovation project for his company.    “It was an unbelievable building,” Ringo said.  “I was honored that my company was selected for the restoration project.”   The project – restoration of the 90-year-old Brownwood landmark was completed on budget and ahead of schedule.  The finished product netted Fort Worth Associated General Contractor 1998 Outstanding Construction Award for Weatherford-based RBR.  Among the recipients last year was the Bass Performance Hall.

The AGC Award is given on the basis of difficulty in construction resulting from design, location, materials etc., unusual construction techniques involved, Santa Fe Depotfinal appearance and quality of the finished product, and timeliness of completion.  The Santa Fe Depot in Brownwood was constructed in 1909 for about $35 million.  The Depot boasted an adjoining Harvey House, a hotel and dorm for railway hostesses.  Once completed, the depot was a commercial hub for central Texas.  But eventually, rail transportation saw a decline.  Santa Fe Railroad no longer needed the facility and the depot was leased to a succession of tenants.  It housed a restaurant, and later a private club.  Each tenant made efforts to “modernize” the facility.  Most of these efforts, though froth with good intentions, did little to improve the structure’s appearance.

Most Brownwood residents considered the depot one of the crown jewels of the city’s historic architecture, although by the mid-1990’s, it had reached a state of decline.   In 1994, the Brownwood Civic Improvement Foundation launched a fundraising drive to raise capital for the restoration of the depot complex to its original glory, thus preserving a piece of history and provide the area with a place to hold business conferences, cultural events, and social functions such as weddings.    By June of 1997, the BCIF had raised enough money to fund the depot’s restoration project.  The organization put the project out to bid.  RBR was selected as general contractor of the project.

Before the depot complex could be returned to its original glory, asbestos had to be removed, modifications made by former tenants had to be demolished, the clay roof tiles had to be removed, re-decked and re-installed.

One of the big challenges was to match materials manufactured nearly a century ago.   “Our roofing contractor had to conduct a nationwide search for the particular sizes and types of clay roof tile to replace the broken and damaged tiles that weren’t good enough to re-use,” Ringo said.Brown County Santa Fe Depot

“We acquired marble slabs to match the 90 year old original marble perfectly.  We then sought the services of a highly qualified marble restoration company and laid the groundwork for the depot’s owners to contract with this company for a complete refinishing of the marble floors to restore them to their original brilliance.  In the remainder of the depot building and in the Harvey House, we had to remove all existing flooring that had been installed over the original concrete floors.  Removal of the flooring was accomplished with a combination of scraping, grinding and sandblasting.  Defects in the floor were patched with diligence in detail to match the original tooling patterns.  A new epoxy floor coating was applied to complete the floor finish.”

"We had to set up on-site to manufacture wood soffit brackets and facia molding to match the original woodwork, which could not be purchased off the shelf.” Ringo said. “This took considerable ingenuity and the skill of RBR craftsmen.”   

The project was completed last fall.     

“I was proud of the fact that the restoration project was completed with a safety record of 100 percent,” Ringo said.  “We had zero accidents during construction of this project.”   RBR has received a number of safety award in the past.  RBR is a 12-year-old company founded in Mineral Wells. 

RBR moved to Weatherford three years ago.

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