Simmons’ Stable – Entry Four

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon when I sit down excitedly to piece together a puzzle that’s been hiding away in my closet, patiently waiting for me to find time to unify its scattered pieces. I only have one problem, some of the pieces are missing and I’m not entirely sure what they look like or even how many are missing. On Monday, a similar puzzle awaits the Simmons’ Stable project team.

We start with a ghostly shell of the stable, precariously learning this way and that. The stable is rich with character, yet precious details have been lost to time, ravaged by weather, neglect or maybe just a horse that didn’t know better. We document what is left of the scattered pieces and begin putting the puzzle back together.

The goal for the project is to restore the stable to the 1940s era. This period follows a major remodel of the stable and its purchase by namesake Arthur Simmons. In order to preserve the integrity of the stable, we focus our initial research more broadly, researching the time periods before and after the period of restoration. We utilize invaluable public resources, which help to define the scope of the project. Among others, these resources include the National Parks Service Preservation Briefs. These briefs cover a wide variety of specialized topics relating directly to the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and building elements.

On a local level, we comb the collections at the Audrain County Historical Society which contain a wealth of photographs and newspaper articles featuring the stable. We further refine our research, consulting local residents and memoirs, include Jane Simmons’ Arthur Simmons American Icon of the Horse World.

As we delve deeper in our research, we get a more precise grasp on the true bones of the project, including the details unique to the Simmons’ Stable. Once we’ve exhausted our external resources, we head straight to the source – Simmons’ Stable.

With an abundance of information, we compile all of our research into a single document: a record of the project and processes which includes an assessment of the structure, its history, architectural details and evolution of the stable. Once these items are outline, the design team proposes a plan of action, highlighting those elements most critical to the restoration and which impact the immediate stabilization of the structure. The document provides an outline of both the scope of work to be completed and the processes involved. Serving as an invaluable resource to the owners and the design team, it also serves as a great tool to many others.

After the document is complete, it is presented to the many bodies governing the restoration of the Stable including the Simmons’ Stable Preservation Trust, the National Parks Service, and the State Historic Preservation Board among others. It’s also utilized to inform the public regarding project development and ongoing fundraising efforts.

In subsequent articles, the project’s structural engineer, John Miller, and I will outline the development of the project through the remainder of documentation and construction in the remaining entries.