An almost 80-year-old wall in the Village of Arroyo Grande is getting a facelift for the first time in decades.
The crumbling "Paulding Wall" on East Branch Street below Paulding Middle School was built sometime in the 1930s, possibly by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program that employed millions of jobless people to carry out public projects during the Great Depression.
William Rinehart, president of the 5-Cities Men's Club, said it's not known exactly when the wall was built, or its purpose — "I think it may have been a retaining wall," he said — but local sources do say that it began crumbling about 40 years ago and the city has never had the funds to fix it.
A large portion of the wall collapsed, leaving piles of rocks and half-standing pieces along the road, creating what Rinehart described as "an eyesore."
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Roughly three years ago, club member J. Johnson brought the topic of the wall to the 5-Cities Men's Club for consideration as one of its volunteer projects, and the club decided to rebuild the collapsed portion using the reclaimed rock from the original structure. Johnson and fellow member Kelvin Gould are the project managers.
The project would have cost the city approximately $280,000, Rinehart said. Instead, the group has managed to accomplish most of the project through sponsor donations of materials and labor, he said. They also held three comedy night fundraisers that raised a total of $30,000 that would go to the project expenses.
"Really, we've had some great sponsors and volunteers who have made this possible," Rinehart said.
Two of the major forces behind the project are Arroyo Grande High School teachers Randy Fiser and Ben Doty, who have done a large part of the masonry work, Rinehart said. Both Fiser and Doty studied masonry before becoming teachers.
"I enjoy puzzles," Doty said Friday morning as he slathered mortar on several large pieces of gray and orange hardrock, before he fit the pieces against the wall. "And this is a puzzle without a picture. Those are great, because there are multiple solutions."
The rock pieces Doty and other volunteers were carefully placing along the wall on Friday are all from the original wall; when the club first began work on the project June 4, the first order of business was removing and cleaning the original rock so it could be reused, Rinehart said.
Now the project is nearing completion — Rinehart said the team expects to be finished by July 31. And once it's done, it'll be something the city can be proud of, he said.
"These guys will be able to drive by this and go, 'I built that,'" Rinehart said motioning to the five workers at the site Friday morning. "Their work accomplished this."