Almost half the fun of viewing Greg’s fused and stained glass works is where they are conceived and where they are displayed for sale.
Gotham Glassworks exists in what was the second story hayloft of a 30 x 18 foot heritage horse barn in downtown Schomberg, Ontario. The bottom floor is used for traditional storage of garden tools and supplies; all the “action” takes place up the stairwell, through the red screen door to your left.
Transcend the staircase – each step unfolds the display of exotic lamps, window and wall panels, platters, plates and vessels. Large casement windows in both studio end-walls bring wonderful soft light into this space, plus views to the expansive gardens surrounding the barn outside.
Greg made the imposing 9 x 4 foot workbench in the studio centre from the reclaimed hemlock joists of the hayloft; as Greg is 6’5″ in height and prefers to work standing, you notice immediately how unusually high the bench is. A variety of halogen pot and track lighting illuminate Greg’s working surfaces and gallery display areas to optimize illumination and most importantly, colour rendition. In the far corner is Greg’s glass kiln, a relatively imposing structure as it can fuse glass up to 3 x 2 feet in size.
From its exterior the barn/studio appears well maintained but as an 80+ year old structure. Once inside, there are no hints you are in anything but a modern, well equipped design and production studio and gallery.
Below are a few select photographs of the finished exterior of Gotham Glassworks for your viewing pleasure. Following is a more detailed description of the barn’s transformation.
Greg and his wife Tracy eyed the 80+ year old horse barn half-way down the rear yard of the Schomberg heritage property they now call home and recognized the potential for this lovely structure to become a functional and beautiful glass studio and gallery.
Below is how the structure looked after 80+ years of use as a horse barn; pig barn and slaughter house; rabbit and chicken coop and slaughter house; storage depot for Dr. Kay’s empty medicinal bottles; general storage shed, and who knows what else!
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Easy enough to dream about – another thing to realize! What to do you say?
First, obtain Conservation Authority approval. Hurricane Hazel passed through Schomberg in 1954, missing the home of Doctor Kay, Schomberg’s long-standing medical practitioner and township Chief Coroner of the time; flooding surrounded the house on Schomberg’s Main Street and the rear of the property. Since then permission has been required to obtain building permits on any lands identified on the flood plain.
In the end the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority was very cooperative in reviewing our plans. As an existing structure, our need to right and reinforce the foundation did not interfere with the flow of flood plain water in the case of another incident as in 1954. All electrical infrastructure had to be kept at a minimun height from the ground for obvious reasons.
Second, obtain advice and sign-off from the local historical society. Greg and Tracy’s home does not fall under the Provincial Heritage Act, but it is registered as one of several hundred historical properties of interest across King Township. As such, they are not under the strict controls of the Heritage Act, but they are required to consult with the local “LACAC” as a prerequisite to obtaining the building permit. The LACAC issued a letter commending them on their plans to preserve the structure, and offered further advice on the restoration at out choosing.
Third, find a contractor – willing to design and perform the work in a heated economy (at that time). We are handy and could do a significant amount of the work required (electrical, insulation, paint, flooring, trim work, eavestroughing, etc.), but set an 80+ year seemingly dilapidated horse barn on a new foundation, replace the roof structure and floor? Nada.
They nearly gave up on finding a contractor willing to undertake such a tricky yet relatively small job (Conestogo called it a “shed” – a barn was something much larger in their language). Greg saw an article in the Globe about how Mark Cullen of Cullen Gardens fame hired a St. Jacobs, Ontario based Amish contractor called Conestogo Carpenters to relocate his childhood home’s barn. Greg contacted Conestogo and it was some some time until the owner reviewed the Schomberg site (he followed through on his promise to come by, “next time he was in the area”), and and another month before a quotation was provided (“I need to think about this one but I’ll get back to you”). Well, he did … a month later .. the quote included a complete set of drawings for the renovation and Greg and Tracy’s dreams for this structure were invigorated!
Greg’s Brother-In-Law, Ken Craik of Springfield Building Components near Aylmer, Ontario, advised Greg on the salient points of negotiating a contract for such services, and with some discussion with Conestogo, a few minor drawing modifications and self-imposed “up-sell” to the deliverables, a contract was signed and work commenced and was completed over the Winter of 2007-2008.
Fourth, convince the local electrical inspector that you have the stuff to wire up a 40 amp service and trench work to supply the underground feed from the house. Oh, and did we mention there is a new gas line to supply a gas space heater along with that? The barn had an existing 20 amp 1-circuit service which was quite adequate for lighting and perhaps a power tool in its hey-day (sorry for the pun) as a horse barn. A large glass kiln requires at least 32 Amps to power, meaning a minimum 40 amp service is required from the home’s main electrical panel. Greg paid a fee for the electrical inspector to provide an initial consultation on exactly what was required by the Electrical Code to make the upgrade effective and safe, particularly with a gas line in the same trench.
Greg rented a large “Ditch Witch” to dig a 3 feet deep by 6″ wide trench for the house to the barn, 80 feet in total. As Schomberg’s soil is mostly hard clay mixed with gravel and rock from the Morraine, using the ditch witch was a pleasure in back-wrenching pain and shock! Following the inspector’s approval of the new underground power and gas line to the barn, Greg completed the wiring of the barn and studio itself, which passed for inspection with flying colours.
Following the 3-week renovation work by Conestogo, Greg and Tracy finished the interior space and landscaped the grounds surrounding the barn to restore them to their near-original form.
GOTHAM GLASSWORKS WAS BORN!