Knapp House Hotel façade buckles on Water Street

John Christensen The Chronicle-Express
Knapp House owner Bill Foster fixes bracing to keep the brick façade of the building from collapsing.

The 150+ year old Knapp House Hotel in Penn Yan is feeling its age. The brick façade along Wagner Street began to bulge on Saturday, and by Monday was in danger of collapse. Once the sidewalk was cordoned off to protect pedestrians, Knapp House owner Bill Foster began the work of bracing the wall, and called in Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Lyon to consult on repairs.

Like most of the Victorian era buildings in downtown Penn Yan, and like the new hotel being built on Elm Street, the Knapp is not a true masonry building. It is a wood frame building with a brick façade which it does not depend upon for structure.

The single layer of bricks was originally laid against the wood sheathing. Iron nails were driven in to the wood frame and left protruding several inches where the mortar lines would be laid, holding the thin layer of bricks against the wooden wall. After 150 years, some of the iron nails have rusted away, and the brick wall has begun to pull away from the wooden wall under its own weight.

This has happened to other buildings along Main Street, including the former law office of Philip Bailey next to the small downtown park. Bailey had the entire façade remade in the 1990s, and the difference in the new mortar can be seen when compared to that building’s twin next door.

Lyon says there is no danger to residents of the Knapp House, and the sidewalk there will remain cordoned off until repairs are complete.