Sometime this weekend a portion of the outer layer of brick on the north wall of the Fremont Opera House gave way, leaving bricks scattered on the parking lot adjacent to the 130-year-old building.
According to Fremont Opera House Manager Chris Bristol, the outer layer of brick that had previously been cracking and bulging gave way sometime either late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
“I came down here and discovered that the outer course of brick where that bubble previously had been has actually burst,” he said in a video posted to the Entertainment at the Fremont Opera House Facebook page on Saturday. “This was not wholly unexpected … this was a danger and a possibility of happening.”
Prior to the bricks falling this past weekend, the Fremont Opera House was red tagged for structural integrity by the City of Fremont due to outward bowing on the building’s north wall.
“The brick is definitely blown out,” City Administrator Brian Newton said in a phone interview with the Tribune last week. “Someone actually turned it in to us, and we went out and obviously saw the bowing and contacted the owner.”
According to Newton, the red tag declaring the building as unsafe to occupy is a precautionary measure.
“Until the owner has a structural engineer come in and give the OK, we are just avoiding any possible safety risk,” he said last week.
According to Bristol, the Fremont Opera House met with structural engineer Vance Behrens of Structural Design Group last Tuesday, and has also contracted Fauss Construction to repair the failing outer layer of bricks.
“Vance was very impressed with the integrity of the interior of the building and we are all in agreement that the outer wall where the bulge is, is 99 percent cosmetic,” he said at the time. “The wall itself is actually 18 inches thick, which is five bricks wide, so we are confident that those other four layers are sound.”
Along with the red tag keeping people out of the building at 541 N Broad St., the City also cordoned off the parking lot to the north of the building with caution tape and fencing to keep people away as the wall clearly showed bowing and cracking on bricks about a third of the way up the structure.
“Fortunately, the City had put up a fairly elaborate fencing so that no one could get into the lot when this happened, so from a safety standpoint everything is good,” Bristol said on Saturday.
Now that the outer layer of bricks has failed, Bristol says he is reassured that the structural integrity of the building is still intact.
“Probably the best news of all, at least from my standpoint, is that you can see from the next layer, the inner layer there, is solid and dry and straight up and down like we had all hoped it would be,” he said. “It is just the outermost layer that has peeled away and we thought that was a possibility because you could see that there was no tie in to the layers behind it.”
Prior to the outer layer giving way this past weekend, Bristol said the Opera House expected repair work to begin soon and that he expected the venue would re-open shortly.
“We are hoping to have the north wall secured within the next three weeks,” he said at the time.
On Saturday, after discovering the bricks had indeed given way Bristol was still confident that the issue is cosmetic in nature.
“This is a 130-year-old building so you are going to have a hiccup from time to time, but it shows you just how strong and stable this building is,” he said. “It survived the Pathfinder Hotel explosion in 1976 and has been going strong for 130 years and this is just one little cosmetic issue that we will be dealing with. We hope that this will break the way for us moving forward to get the facility reopened.”