Tom White visits Ravenswood's McIntosh building, gathers numbers for a restoration estimate
The third floor of the McIntosh is completely unsalvageable. Holes in the second level's floor peek at the puddles of black, murky water in the dining hall downstairs. Countless rings of mold cover the walls and their smell lingers throughout the building.
Tom White didn't see the grime and mold when he walked through the community building on June 25. He saw an opportunity to make the McIntosh better than it's ever been.
"It's just boards and lumber and plaster and roofing," White said with a smile on his face. "That's all this is."
White, a senior project manager at Athens Building Corporation in Richmond, Virginia, has donated his time and services to the City of Ravenswood and is advising the McIntosh's restoration journey. White has specialized in restoration projects for about 50 years — he said he doesn't have enough fingers and toes to count all the restoration projects he's worked on.
He drove six hours from Richmond on Thursday to gather information, like measurements, to help determine a precise cost estimate.
White first visited just two days after the fire and gave Katrena an approximate estimation cost: $750,000. Over the next week, he's going to find out how close his on-the-spot estimate is to the real thing.
He will create an official cost outline and construction schedule for the McIntosh's renovation. He said his only concern budget-wise is making the building ADA compliant, which wasn't included in his original estimate.
Teary eyes and grateful hearts
As White entered the McIntosh Friday morning, Ravenswood resident Renee DeLong was there waiting for him. She heard he was visiting and had to meet him.
With glassy eyes, DeLong reached out to shake White's hand.
"God sent you to us," Delong said.
She wasn't the only one who kept thanking him. Katrena Ramsey, Ravenswood's Parks and Recreation superintendent and Mary Jean McIntosh Davis were there to not only get updates but to also thank him for his time and support.
This was the first time Davis and White met. He gave her a tour of what's left of her old family's home and kept referring to her as "Mrs. Davis" — she cringed at the sound of it but he said his mother would "roll out of her grave" if he called someone older than him by their first name. Davis, standing in a puddle in the hallway, laughed
On the second floor, they went room by room, examining the condition and discussing blending old and new elements in the upcoming restoration. In every room they entered, Davis saw black, charred walls and soaking wet floors. White didn't.
In every room they entered, he had a vision. Davis had a look of concern.
"Girl, you're going to be proud of this place when it gets done," White said. "I promise you."
With every dark, black, soot-covered room she entered, Davis said memories flooded her head. It's been hard to see the fire's destruction, but White's attitude has made all the difference. She said his sincerity and concern for the McIntosh blew her away.
"It shows that he has not only a liking for the house but a love for the house," Davis said. "I think it is absolutely fantastic that he wants to come in and be a part of this process."
She said she wishes she had met him "a long time" ago.
As White and Davis went back and forth about details of the restoration, like whether the original doorknobs could be saved, Ramsey squeegeed part of the second floor — water snuck in during a shower early in the morning.
Ramsey is filled with confidence about the McIntosh's future because of White. She was skeptical at first when he reached out, but now she's relieved.
"I don't know how to do this, but he does."
White said he expects to have a final price and construction schedule by Monday, July 5. The first thing on the to-do list once the plan is approved is to demolish what's left of the third floor and install a temporary roof to protect the structure from more water damage in the future.
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.