After the Civil War, in 1881, Col. Gibbs took a position as a general freight agent for the Galveston/Houston railroad. In 1884, he built a home on Snake Hill (short for rattlesnake hill), now officially tagged Government Hill. This area is directly south of what is now Ft. Sam Houston. The home is located on Mason St., just west of N. New Braunsfels Ave. In 1892, he took a position with Southern Pacific Railroad, as a land agent, remaining with the SPRR until about 1908. During this time his office was in the Hicks Building in San Antonio.
In 1909, Col. Gibbs began construction on his own office building at the northwest corner of Houston and Alamo Streets in downtown San Antonio. This is where the Maverick house, Bank, and office building once stood. The bank burned down. This location was, at one time, part of the Alamo compound. Five Spanish cannons, believed to have been used during the Battle of the Alamo, were found buried here when the excavation began on Gibbs' eight-story building.
The Mason Street home is now (Dec. 1998) owned by the Carla L. Trott Estate. Mrs. Trott passed away earlier this year. She participated enthusiastically in the renovation and restoration over the last few years. When I was there she was always contributing to the rebuilding in a very "hands on" way.
Originally it was a small two story Victorian style. Several additions were made through the years, and now the home is about 6000 sq. ft. in size, including the double deck porch that wraps around the south and east sides.
Col. Gibbs resided in the home on Mason with Mrs. Marian Gibbs until 1911, and with Jessie F. Mason, until at least 1913. In the 1948 city directory the Mason Street home is designated as apartments.
Six columns (28') topped off with huge Corinthian capitals,  jump up from out of the ground, supporting the outer edge of the porches, and the roof above. At the time I was there in 1996, the fluted columns were covered with a very thick layer of some sort of industrial looking paint (maybe some type of railroad paint, definitely very heavy duty, as these columns were made of plaster, not known for durability in an exterior setting). Poor structural execution here had led to severe sagging of both the porches, and the roof. Minimum damage had occurred in the area where the porches terminated against the columns, but the capitals were heavily damaged, with major portions missing on most, from the weight of the roof bearing down on them. The fluted one piece shafts may have been "run in place", and conceal 8"x8" timbers inside each column for structural integrity.
The capitals were cast originally in two pieces to allow placement after the supporting shafts inside the columns were in place and holding the perimeter of the roof framing. I removed one of these halves that was in fairly good condition and remodeled the missing elements. This piece was used as a model to produce a mold on "the bench" in my studio. Once the polyurethane was brushed in place for the mold, the large size required moving the assembly to the floor, in order to produce the case. The three piece and bolted together case also had two rounded ends bolted on. These wheel like ends allowed rolling the entire assembly while pouring in the 105 pounds of  plaster. When you add the seventy percent ration of h2o, this brings the weight of each half capital coming out of the mold to over 175 pounds. The twelve halves required quite a bit of horsepower to be exerted by this mule. Not to mention transporting them to the jobsite, hoisting them up 28 feet, and then securing the halves in place.
The original caps had their lifetime shortened significantly not only from the weight of the roof framing pushing down on them, but also from the top of the caps being left open. Damage from rain blowing in through the years was compounded by the pigeon nests and droppings collecting inside. The rain alone would not be enough to weaken these ornaments, as it would evaporate quickly enough. The pigeon nests though, held the moisture inside the caps, and when combined with the chemical action of the droppings, the caps were weakened. Then the weight of the roof caused severe fracturing and this resulted in major breakage in some areas. Areas where the weight was not on the ornaments were softened and crumbling from the other factors. (you can click here to see a photo). Mrs. Trott decided to have me replace all six of the caps, as even the "good" pieces did not look presentable. The pigeon problem was solved simply by closing the tops of the caps with plaster after their installation.
This project was very challenging, requiring complex mold construction and manipulation, as well as creative scaffold building. And the satisfaction of conquering this rolling ball of problems was extremely rewarding.
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Tom Battersby, Ornamental Lath and Plaster.
Ornamental plaster and stucco restoration is a specialty for us.
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