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Farris gets top-of-the line makeover

All makeovers start with properly and completely cleaning the surface, whether it’s a person’s face or a building. You deep clean the pores and ‘skin’ and go from there.
That’s what Richmond’s beloved and historic Farris Theatre has been getting over the past several weeks.
The first part of the project was ensuring the roof of the complex was in good shape, and then applying a polyurethane-foam roofing at a total cost of $55,000 through the NAP grant.
In June, Jeff Mosley of A.T. Switzer Painting Company of Kansas City began preparing the theater for its new coat of paint and was impressed with the quality of the new roof.
Mosley said it is the “Cadillac” of roofs, but was quietly corrected by Friends of the Farris President Rob Swafford, also of Swafford’s Fords, “It’s the Lincoln of roofs,” he said wryly.
“Whatever they spent on it is worth it,” he said. “The roof is over the entire complex and the rubberized coating will keep water out.”
The building’s ‘facial’ actually began with the board deciding what was needed, what their choices were as far as prep and types of paints, how these met National Register of Historic Places’ requirements, cost and companies.
Mosley said a ‘simple adhesion test,’ also known as a scratch test, was performed to check the condition of the building and the previous paint job.
“They brought Pittsburgh Paint sales rep Dave Ingles down from Kansas City to look at the Farris,” said Mosley.
“We knew there might be some problems with the mortar due to the age of the building.”
They were right. The masons will have to do some ‘tuck pointing’ to replace the old mortar and mortar joints. Mosley said some of it was so old, that when he power-washed it, the mortar ran like mud.
Power-washing was the first order of business, a deep cleaning to remove a chalky-like substance that develops through oxidation over the years.
“I get pretty aggressive with power-washing,” Mosley said. “The brick and paint are only as good as what’s behind it.”
Of particular concern was the parapet wall, a decorative area above the roof, that has deteriorating mortar Mosley attributed to a leak in the roof there. He said there was quite a bit of water damage to the former roof.
“The theater was sandblasted in the 1980s, but it wasn’t sealed afterward,” said Mosley. “The sandblasting eliminated 80-90 percent of its protection, particularly on the west side and the parapet wall. That compromised its durability.”
Mosley said the majority of repairs to the brick, as far as tuck-pointing, is the 25-30 ft. parapet area.
“That mortar is very weak,” said Mosley. “A lot of it is a hardened-type of dirt due to deterioration of the mortar. The brick masons will cut out the old mortar and loose joints and repair it on the upper areas (parapet wall).
The first coat of paint was actually a primer, and Mosley began the final coat last week, dodging rain and extreme heat. Weather does play a factor in application and drying time.
“We’re using a finish paint that is a breathable product,” Mosley said. “It’s an elastic-americ coating, a PermaCrete coating/paint. If there is moisture inside the building, it will allow it to escape (breathe), but not to penetrate.”
Mosley sprayed the primer and paint on first, then did a second coating using a roller.
“By spraying, I’m getting into the nooks and crannies, and then I roll it,” he said. “I hold the gun inches away from the surface to control the overspray and guide it into the smaller areas.”
Once Mosley finishes the exterior walls, he’ll begin painting the trimwork.
“There are eight colors on the building altogether. Three shades of green and a bit of red. Goldish-brown on the dental molding and black on the handrails etc., and we’ll clean and spot prime the firescape to paint it.”
It’s a good thing Mosley isn’t afraid of heights, as he has spent a great deal of time on the 60-ft. Snorkel Lift. The brick masons will also use this lift. Mosley said more damage to the mortar was found than expected and therefore is an added cost that will cut into the amount originally allocated for the painting phase. Allowing the masons to use the crane and not have to bring another one in for them will save money.
“It controls the cost. The masons won’t have to double or triple their bid to do the work,” he said.
As for the theater itself, Mosley is accustomed to working on different types of buildings, even water towers.
“I love this job and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Mosley. “I come in to do my job, but on these kinds of jobs, it’s more. It’s easy to go the extra mile. You want it to look cleaner when you leave than when you came each day. I don’t get paid for cleaning the sidewalk, but when the building and area around it look good, I look good too. The neighbors are great and I take them into consideration when I’m working. It’s nice to do work that everyone appreciates, and it’s nice to be a part of this community for a while.”
When it comes to the Farris Theatre, she’s one of Richmond’s treasures and deserves plenty of tender loving care.
Mosley plans to have the facing of the building completely redone for the comedian that is scheduled for July 19.
Photo: Jeff Mosley of A. T. Switzer Painting Co. of Kansas City, is now applying the finish coat to the Farris Theatre as part of the work under the Neighborhood Assistance Program 75/25 grant that will help create the Farris Arts District. Brick masons will begin work this week as Mosley begins painting the trim work. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)

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