A Topping Out ceremony was held by placing a wreath on the completed frame for the new Commons building at The Village Green on Thursday. Framers from MoreSun Timber Frames, members of The Village Green Board, and several members of the community were on hand to watch the ceremony that entails placing a tree bough or wreath at the highest point of the timber frame to pay homage to the trees used to make the frame and the hands that built it, said Ann Self, Executive Director of The Village Green.
“We’re not just raising a timber frame,” said Self. “We’re raising a vision to elevate the wonderful quality of life and sense of community we have in Cashiers.”
She added that using an evergreen wreath is a unique way to represent the Christmas tree industry in Jackson County.
The Commons will be a resource in the community for any number of events for schools, nonprofits, clubs, the arts, and more said one of the original founders of The Village Green Board of Directors, Vanna Cameron. She watched as Self placed the wreath at the top of the frame and said a resource like this is just what the area needs.
“I think it’s one of the most wonderful additions to the Cashiers area,” said Cameron. “As the community grows, so has the need for an enclosed, aesthetically-pleasing event center. This is going to be used by everyone, young and old, for generations and generations.”
The approx. two-ton cupola was placed by crane on March 29 and started off as a relatively smooth process, but MoreSun Joiner Daniel Weddle said some last-minute adjustments had to be made.
“We raised it and everything was looking good, but then it wouldn’t go in,” said Weddle. “So, to get that to happen we had to block it up (raise it) a couple of inches. Now that it’s finished it’s excellent, it looks great. It’s all my hands have touched for the past four months.”
Project Manager Mark Fortenberry said the framers did an excellent job given a complex project.
“The whole erection process of the frame is itself pretty demanding, moving very heavy timber, mostly overhead; and following a precise installation layout sequence, fitting, installing the wooden dowels, and much more is not for everyone,” said Fortenberry. “It’s really a joy to watch such a well-oiled group of craftsmen at work, doing what they love.”
The frame is made up of Douglas Fir and pieces range from weighing 50-1000 pounds. Owner of MoreSun Timber Frames, Stephen Morrison, said they layout the joinery on the timber by hand, then someone else checks all the layout lines, next it’s cut by hand, fine-tuned with chisels and planes, and then they test fit everything they can put together in the shop, label it, and disassemble it.
Morrison said accurate labeling is important because many of the pieces are the same, but not interchangeable. Once the pieces are on site, they assemble as much as they can on the ground to minimize the use of the crane.
“Our goal is to preassemble the frame parts so that we can use the crane as little as possible, it is expensive, so we usually build ‘wall sections’ and raise them one at a time and then connect them as they go up,” said Morrison. “If possible, we try to pre-assemble some of the roof assemblies on the ground and then lift them as a unit too. It has to me a mix of efficiency and safety to make it work.”
Morrison added that the Commons is a geometrically-complex project. Meaning, there was a lot of time spent in the shop double and triple checking the math to be sure things were correct before any cuts were made.
“There are a couple hundred pieces in this frame, if anyone is wrong, which does happen, it can be a real headache,” he said. “There are also a lot of very big pieces, so just moving it all around and storing it is a challenge. The order of installation and assembly is also challenging. It is possible to install one thing that gets in the way of another, so that can be difficult. Safety is also a challenge, so keeping an eye on possible hazards is important too.”
Throughout the 10-day process of raising the frame; local businesses and organizations helped “Feed the Framers” in honor of an old tradition. Those who participated include Slab Town Pizza, Cream and Flutter, Whiteside Brewing Company, the Blue Ridge Interact Club, Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau, Cashiers Baptist Church, and the Church of the Good Shepherd who served everything from pizza and wings for lunch to biscuits and donuts for breakfast.
“It was amazing having coffee, sweets, or biscuits waiting for you when we got down,” said Weddle. “Ann’s (Self) exuberance throughout this whole process and getting people to support us like she did, it was a huge motivator. We met so many nice people and business owners.”
The Village Green Board along with community leaders have worked to design the structure and a plan to make this vision a reality, said Self. They established a capital campaign committee to raise $3.5 million – the cost of this construction project with additional funds designated for some much-needed refurbishing of the existing Village Green Commons venue. The quiet, lead phase of the capital campaign, “Growing a Vision for Cashiers” raised $2.6 million toward the goal.
VG Board Chair Joe Thompson said raising the funds was a challenge, especially in the beginning, and after years of looking at drawings and renderings its incredible to see it up close first hand.
“When we started raising the money, it wasn’t easy,” said Thompson. “I had never done anything like this before and after a month I was terrified. But then the contributions started rolling in. And now that I see this (completed timber frame), it gives me chill bumps just looking at it.”
He added that the $2.6 M raised of the $3.5 M total cost of the project is being used to build the new facility and create an endowment.
“Once people realize what this is going to be, and that it’s for everyone, they see the need and the community has been incredibly supportive,” said Thompson. “We have $900,000 more to raise but we’re going to get this done.”
Thompson added that despite delays from inclement weather, the Commons is expected to be finished entirely by September or October.
Self said now is the time to involve members of the community to join in a new phase of the campaign. “Raising a Vision for Cashiers” has a goal of raising $900,000 more to complete the entirety of the project. Values have been assigned to elements of the timber frame. People can purchase everything from a wooden peg to the posts, beams, and rafters. A framed drawing will hang in the completed building showing the names of the “owners” and their part of the frame.
“This structure will be made of thousands of individual parts,” said Self. “Each one supports and holds the structure together. Likewise, every resident and visitor to the area is a critical component in the life of this community, and everyone in Cashiers has a place in this amazing new facility.”
For more information about the new Commons building as well as how to contribute, call 828-743-3434, email info@VillageGreenCashiersNC.com or click HERE. Follow construction progress as well as all that happens in The Village Green using social media @cashiersgreen.
To read the first article published about the new Commons building click HERE.