Thursday, May 15, 2014

Company saves what it can from historic Odd Fellows Home



Domaneik Fields of New Bedford, an employee of Jarmak Corp., walks up a flight of stairs to retrieve attic floorboards being salvaged from the old Odd Fellows Home on Randolph Road in Worcester on Thursday. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)
Patriots Environmental Corp. employees Angel Reyes, left, and Jose Velez, both of Worcester, take a break while working at the old Odd Fellows Home on Randolph Road in Worcester. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)
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Angel Reyes of Worcester, a project supervisor for Patriots Environmental Corp., walks past antique clock faces removed from the clock tower of the old Odd Fellows Home. (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)
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WORCESTER — Arnold Jarmak isn’t a historian but he’s probably been more intimately involved in preserving and studying the past than a lot of academics who hold degrees in the subject.

Which is interesting for someone who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Lehigh University.

“There is just something special about old things,” said Mr. Jarmak, whose latest endeavor involves saving some of the physical elements of the Odd Fellows Home on Randolph Road, which is being torn down to make way for an Alzheimer’s wing at the nearby Dodge Park Rest Home.

Mr. Jarmak is the owner of Jarmak Corp., a Chelsea-based company that has specialized, over the past few years, in removing old timber from buildings that are being demolished. That wooden material is then re-used in other building initiatives.

The firm operates a sawmill and lumberyard in Oxford.

“This wood is beautiful,” said Mr. Jarmak. “Some people use it to restore old houses. Others use it in constructing new commercial structures.”

Mr. Jarmak has been involved in a number of reclamation projects.

The company, for example, has removed many of the old wood pilings that sat along Boston’s waterfront. Some of those Boston Harbor oaks were used to refurbish restaurants or offices.

Mr. Jarmak didn’t have a background in the buildings trade when he began his reclamation business.

He actually started out as a photographer.

For 15 years, Mr. Jarmak, who grew up in Marblehead, chronicled the history of Chelsea by shooting at least 20,000 black and white photographs ofthe city for the Chelsea Record.

The gallery includes photographs of politicians, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, store openings, city gatherings, elections, and all the other stuff that community newspapers strive to record.

Mr. Jarmak is hoping someday to archive the material, in some manner, for the public to view.

“I was pretty much involved in every important event that happened in Chelsea,” he said. “That’s a lot of history.”

Mr. Jarmak eventually left the newspaper business to dabble for four or five years in real estate.

“But the industry began going belly up and I began to look around for other opportunities,” he said.

He went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and worked with the Amish in tearing down and building new barns.

“The Amish didn’t waste anything,” he said, noting he worked on barns for about four and a half years. “Maybe that’s where I picked up the idea that old stuff can be re-used.”

If he didn’t learn that lesson in the Keystone State, then he probably embraced it at his next gig.

A developer friend invited him to Philadelphia,where he worked on cutting up six 1950s era destroyers for metal and other scrap.

He established Jarmak in 1998.

Mr. Jarmak said his customers vary, from couples looking to use old wood for table and counter tops to big companies constructing new facilities.

He said he recently sold material to people restoring an antique home in Egremont and has also worked with sneakers giant Converse Inc. to move its world headquarters to the Lovejoy Wharf project next to Boston’s North End.

Locally, Mr. Jarmak’s company was involved, years ago, in the razing of the old Juvenile Court building at 75 Grove St.

The firm removed about 50 tractor-trailer loads of wood from the site.

Though it’s pricier, Mr. Jarmak recommends that people consider using old timber on projects.

He said the lumber is dry and much stronger than material cut from new trees.

“The wood is a lot more stable,” he said.

Mr. Jarmak also noted that old wood takes on beautiful hues as it ages.

He said it also makes sense to recycle wood, out of concern for the environment.

Company officials said that 30,000 trees are cut down every day, reducing the planet’s ability to absorb carbon. It’s also estimated that building debris accounts for about 25 percent of what’s found in landfills.

Mr. Jarmak said Central Massachusetts is rich with timbers that are as old as 200 to 300 years old. That lumber sits in the many closed-down factories that dot the area.

He said “heart pine,” a tree from the south, was used in many area factories in the late 1900s because of its strength.

Mr. Jarmak said he has been busy for at least a month working at the Odd Fellows Home, which local preservationists were hoping to save.

The structure, which sits in the city’s Greendale section, was built on a 4.6-acre site in 1892 by the International Order of Odd Fellows and was used as a nursing home.

The three-and-a-half story building, which includes a five-and-a-half story clock tower, will be knocked down for the Alzheimer’s wing, which is expected to serve about 80 people.

The project is expected to cost about $14.6 million.

Deborah Packard, the executive director of Preservation Worcester, said she’s sorry the Odd Fellows building will be torn down but she’s happy some parts of it will become incorporated into other projects.

“Seasoned craftsmen used fine materials to construct that building,” she said.

Contact Bronislaus B. Kush at