The old staircase used to lead visitors to the top of the Astoria Column. Now it will lead to the top of Fort George Brewery and Public House.

On Friday, contractors and employees for the brewery finished installing about 24 steps rising 17 feet from just inside the pub’s Duane Street entrance to the brewery’s second floor expansion, which is expected to open sometime this year.

“The old Column steps, it’s almost like this building was meant to have them here,” said Fort George co-owner Chris Nemlowill, looking down into the circular hole about 8 feet in diameter cut through layers of Douglas fir and concrete floor.

A large plywood box just inside the pub’s Duane Street entrance, festooned with Fort George merchandise and paper postings, marks the location of the staircase.

Bryan Koskela of K Manufacturing created a steel center column going from the first to second floor. He and Tim Kennedy, owner of Blind Moses Woodworking and general contractor on the Fort George remodel, thought up the installation process for the staircase.

Fort George employees Luis Ochoa and Simo Ranta used a motorized winch suspended above the hole in the floor to lower each cast iron step – 119 pounds, according to Mayor Willis Van Dusen – down to Kennedy and fellow contractor Nate Killops. They shimmied the steps down the center column, assembling the spiral staircase piece by piece up to the second floor.

The banister for the staircase is made of stainless steel posts, each with eight holes through which steel cables run, winding along the side of the staircase as a guard.

All told, said Kennedy, installing the staircase was a five-week operation involved three to four people.

Both layers of the cutout floor at the top of the staircase will be rounded, finished and kept exposed to show the building’s construction style.

Staying with the salvage and recycle theme of the project, the slab of floor will be made into a table. Kennedy is looking for a base for the table. He said anyone with a “historically significant” object about 2 feet in diameter and 2 feet tall should call him at 503-803-3330.

Fort George’s recent remodel has salvaged materials from several old buildings, as has its existing pub.

“There’s just so much history in materials like that,” said Nemlowill, adding that the bar top on the first floor is reclaimed wood from the old Sanborn Building.

At its July 16 meeting, the Astoria City Council approved Fort George’s use of the Column stairs, which were replaced and stored away after being deemed unsafe in June. Van Dusen said at the meeting that the intent was always to have someone use the steps.

Nemlowill approached Jordan Schnitzer, president of the Friends of the Astoria Column group, at the city’s kickoff event for the Heritage Square in April 2012. He made the pitch and Schnitzer agreed to the use of the stairs.

Along with the steps, Kennedy is in charge of doubling the pub’s capacity with a second-floor space similar to the first and with all the same amenities.

Nemlowill is hesitant on giving a grand opening date, but said Fort George is aiming for this summer.

 

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