Nov. 04--At first, it was fun.
Bob and Laura Goewey took up quarters in a 1970s camper parked next to the former Park Point fire hall, which they bought from the city and are converting into their home.
That was in early July, after they sold their home farther out on Park Point to avoid two mortgages.
"It was like camping out on the beach all summer long," Laura Goewey said. "It was beautiful. Whenever I would get frustrated or impatient, all I had to do is walk down the path and go to the beach, and it would all disappear."
Even without hot water and a shower, it was an adventure, she says.
Then the weather turned cold, ushered in by a gale-force windstorm in early October that Laura describes as "ferocious."
Since then, with winter fast approaching, it's been a race to get heat going in the iconic Park Point building and at least one room in livable condition before winter hits.
No easy task, when much of the 3,120-square-foot building is a construction zone.
"Things need to go in a certain procession," said Bob Goewey, who is doing much of the work himself.
Before the first renovated room's new in-floor radiant heat system can function, the new boiler must be installed. Before that happens, a gas line needs to be hooked up, the room's wiring needs upgrading and a new panel box must be installed.
"We have to have the new service in before I can remove the old knob and tube wiring," Bob said. "It all kind of goes hand-in-hand."
Then there are the numerous permits and inspections along the way, which Bob says have been going well.
"I'm very pleased with how it's going with the city," he said.
But like most construction projects, some aspects take longer than planned.
The Goeweys had hoped to be living in the first completed room by now, but Bob, who co-owns Cloquet Home Center, wasn't able to get as much time off from work during the summer as he had hoped. So they're still sleeping in their recreational vehicle.
But a lot has been done since the project began in April.
Most visible has been the outside work. The fire hall's old paned windows were removed and replaced with period-style, energy-efficient ones. A new roof was installed, using architectural carriage house shingles. The old cedar shake siding was removed and the house was wrapped in insulated board. Before Bob installs the new wood siding this winter, foam insulation will be injected into the wall cavities. The restored exterior will be finished off with new period-style house and garage doors.
Long a fixture on Park Point, the fire hall at 2138 Minnesota Ave. was built in 1930 in a style that complemented the homes around it. Its closing in 2012 was controversial, and so were the city's plans to sell it. Many feared buyers would raze it or want it just for the land value.
So when the Goeweys came in with the high bid at $235,000 in December, preservationists were thrilled. The Goeweys planned to turn it into a single-family home, retaining much of its vintage character and restoring the exterior to its early appearance.
But the fire hall was in rough shape. Although it had only been vacant since July 2012, it had gone without needed repairs and upkeep for years.
Before the Goeweys closed on the house, a water spigot that hadn't been turned off last fall burst during a January cold spell, causing extensive water damage to the firefighters' front sleeping room.
That left more work for Bob to do, so the city reduced the sale price to $223,000.
During the summer, Bob gutted the water-damaged front room, framed it with new wall studs and ceiling joists, and installed in-floor radiant heating coils topped with a new poured concrete floor. More progress was made two weeks ago when crews sprayed foam insulation in the room's walls and ceiling.
"My main concern is this room, which was completely gutted because of the water," Bob said. "The others have a lot less work to do."
In recent days, the room's wiring upgrade was completed and sheetrock installed. It'll be the first room to get done, the one they'll live in as the rest of the building is renovated.