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March 23, 1998

Cooperage repairs set stage for future renovation plans

Local contractor Dan Flasher and Alan Speidel start construction of the Cooperage's new wall.

By Francine Tyler

People coming through UCSC's main entrance in the past week may have noticed that one of the historical old "barns" near the base of campus has received a facelift of sorts.

A plywood side has been added to the Cooperage, which was damaged by high winds during a storm in late December. The same storm also felled a tree near the Barn Theater, knocked down part of another, and destroyed one of the small cabins that dot the hillside behind the police station.

The wind knocked boards from one of the Cooperage's walls onto the ground, exposing the inside of the building to the elements. Since then, wind had blown into the dilapidated building, pushing the remaining walls outward "like a pillowcase filled with air," said Graham Bice, a campus planner who is overseeing the building's repair and renovation.

The plywood is only a temporary fix, Bice said. "We're stabilizing the building where it is weakest and have covered the end so it is protected from rain and wind damage," he explained. "The long-term solution is to renovate the building."

Campus planners are looking at options for making the building usable as office space and beginning to identify units that might be appropriate for the space, Bice said. As a starting point for the discussions, the committee is using a feasibility study prepared for the building 10 years ago.

"We'll be talking with campus architects and the Planning and Budget Office to come up with a complete program for this building," Bice said.

Renovations could involve constructing a "building within a building" to make the Cooperage usable without significantly altering its historic appearance, Bice said. Even scraps of wood knocked off the building during December's storm are being saved for use when the building is restored sometime in the future.

The Cooperage was used for making barrels from the mid-1800s to early 1900s when the land that now makes up the campus was the 2,000-acre Cowell Ranch. The building was an integral part of the operations of the Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Company, which mined limestone from a number of locations, including UCSC's Upper Quarry.

A redwood-sided building supported eight feet off the ground on stone pillars, the Cooperage was built that way to accommodate wagons that were driven under the building and loaded with barrels full of lime processed in the nearby kilns.

Old barrels, barrel-making equipment, and scraps of wood and metal litter the Cooperage's second floor, and antique wagons and other farm equipment cluster under the building's bulk. Bice hopes to put the collection on display one day--perhaps in the building itself, perhaps at a local museum or state park.

"We'll need to find a place for this tremendous historical resource," he said.

This winter wasn't the first time the Cooperage has gone without one wall. Back when the building was part of Cowell Ranch, the Cooperage stretched across what is now Coolidge Drive. The structure was cut in half in 1965 to make room for the campus road.

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