Brick by brick.
That’s how Caroline Marko and her husband Scott refurbished an old forty-foot chimney that ran all the way throughout the historic Elk’s Lodge building they bought in 2014.
It wasn’t easy.
“Me and the kids spent eight days [with a] chisel and hammer and tapped the grout off them and then we hired a kid to come in and he spent eight days cutting 700 bricks into half,” said Marko.
She said they joked about the exorbitantly-high price the process worked out to on a square foot basis, but added the important thing was they were able to preserve the chimney in a unique way, something she said was essential to her and Scott’s vision of refurbishing the building but repurposing and using elements from over the years in the redesign — such as the vintage 800-pound oven they moved from the basement, now a centrepiece of the open-concept kitchen upstairs. The building was previously owned by the Elks of Canada, a volunteer organization of men and women that serve a number of communities across the country.
Throughout its years it served as a base of operations for the organization, but its walls were also used for a variety of events held within the community, from dances to fundraisers to community breakfasts and dinners.
On June 25, Marko invited many of the women whose very same dance shoes reverberated throughout those halls decades ago to lunch in the now-renovated space, which she and Scott spent years remodelling.
One of those women was Jytte Skarda, who worked as a caretaker, maintaining the building through a large portion of the 1970s and 1980s and living in the downstairs section, which now houses a hair salon.
Recounting the countless parties, celebrations and events hosted throughout the years she said during those years there was always something fun going on down at the lodge.
“It was a hopping place, I don’t think there were many Saturdays I got a full night sleep because downstairs you could hear the people.”
There were nods of agreement among those in attendance, who universally agreed the space was virtually unrecognizable from its original form, albeit in a way that paid homage to the original building.
Marko said this was part of her vision in undertaking the project, to create a space that was her own but that also incorporated and salvaged aspects of the original building’s textured history.
“I love the fact that this flooring is the old chimney, I love that these are the doors we peeled out from underneath some other doors, I love that the windows, the interior windows, were logged into the basement.
“All these things have a story [and] you don’t get that at IKEA.”
Recalling their decision to buy the building in 2014, Marko admits it was a tough one, but that her whole family was on board — her and Scott even made their kids pinky swear they would help with the renovations.
After Scott took a look and verified that the structure and bones of the building were good, they decided to pull the trigger.
Marko added when they originally bought the building, they didn’t even know what was above the T-bar ceiling or under the flooring.
After pulling out a layer of both linoleum and donnacona from the ceiling, four feet of extra space and the original wood structure was revealed.
“I think that was actually the catalyst for me, was when Scott was [renovating the ceiling] and was like, there’s another four feet up here’.”
There were also a number of refurbished doors the couple used for the upstairs portion of the building, including a door from the original structure with the inscription “NM Nov 11/31.”
Marko joked that the carving may have been penned by some nameless, rebellious child.
“Somebody got in trouble in 1931, somebody was in big trouble in November,” she said with a laugh.
Lorelei Smaha was at the lunch with her mother, who previously volunteered with the organization.
“It’s wonderful that she could bring us in here and show us, especially the ladies, because they really remember it from before.”
And for all the effort, sweat and hard work that went into the renovation, Marko said she wouldn’t change anything and that the space is one that works perfectly for team Marko.
“What has value to us might not have value to other people but this is us, this is how we like it.
“I’m pretty sure Scott would like some more colour, but that’s not going to happen,” she added with a laugh.