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Fire circle at the Lucie Stern

The Restoration of the Boy Scout Fire Circle
Lucie Stern Community Center,
Palo Alto, California
September 2002

Built in 1937, “The Fire Circle” at the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto is where our troop regularly meets. It also provides a meeting place for many other troops, the Stanford District and the Pacific Skyline Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The Children’s Theater performed at the circle as early as 1941, and over the years the Girl Scouts and other community groups have used it as well. No repair or preservation work had ever been done in its 65-year existence. Tree roots, water and weather had done serious damage to the brickwork. Underground electric wiring was later discovered to be unsafe and was replaced, along with needed new night lighting. A new twenty-five foot wooden flagpole was also installed.

Troop 57 and Council had talked about upgrading this cherished facility for several years, but no one had the time or money. In the summer of 2002, after winning a Northwestern Mutual Community Service Award from his company for his prior work with Troop 57, Larry Christenson proposed the restoration of this city historic site. The $10,000 grant would be used as “seed” money with any additional dollars funded by Troop 57.

Larry recruited a troop parent, John Cote, to assist as a co-manager. John, a local general contractor added his construction expertise. Elements of the project were defined. Contractors were interviewed for their recommendation and project bids. Materials and prices were identified. The plan was to use troop parents and scouts along with contractors to minimize the labor costs.

The restoration project included four parts:

1) Repair of Stage Floor. The stage brick floor was rippled by underlying tree roots from the trees left and right of the stage. To avoid damage to the tree roots, the plan was to remove all the stage floor bricks, remove the mortar and power wash for reuse. The stage floor was elevated one brick to allow for root expansion. Parents and scouts completed this phase. A brick mason poured a concrete containment footing around the perimeter of the stage, laying down one row of bricks mortared to the footing. Inside the containment footing capped by brick, new brick was laid down on a bed of compacted gravel and sand.

2) Damaged brick wall behind the oak tree. The large oak tree to the right of the stage was pushing against the brick wall --- several rows of brick had broken loose. A rectangular section was cut out of the wall to permit future tree grow. Concrete cuts and damaged bricks were repaired by the brick mason.

3) Steps to the left of the stage. Bricks were breaking loose on the steps to the left of the stage. Brick damage was repaired.

4) Mortar cracking and separation in the fire circle seating area. Much of the concrete mortar was breaking loose from brickwork in the seating area surround the fire circle and stage. Cleaning and repointing of the damaged mortar was completed by Troop 57 parents and scouts.

In June 2002, a formal presentation was made to the Troop Committee to review the project components, time, material and costs to complete the project in time for celebrating the October 2002 Eagle Court of Honor. The projected cost was $10,300 supplemented by a projected 700 hours of labor by troop parents and scouts.

Construction began in mid-August. Work schedules were established for each Saturday morning and afternoon, plus Sunday afternoon. Emails were sent, needed materials and equipment was organized. Sixty people showed up for the first Saturday morning kick-off. Construction photos were emailed weekly to all troop members to keep them apprised of the progress.

During the project, the electric wiring was discovered to be unsafe and required replacement. Night lighting was added to the project. A new twenty-five foot wooden flagpole was also added. The project’s total cost was $13,280 including over 800 hours of labor by troop parents and scouts.

In October 2002, Troop 57 was recognized with a Palo Alto Historic Society Award for the restoration of the Boy Scout Fire Circle at the Lucie Stern Community Center.

The January 22, 2003 issue of the Palo Alto Weekly, included the article, “Scouts Ignite Fire Circle – Troop refurbishes local landmark”. Click here.

I would like to thank Larry and John for leading the Scouts and Parents of Troop 57 in accomplishing the major project. The immediate result of this work was not limited to improved appearance of the Fire Circle: it is a safer facility, and it is now useable by more groups after dark due to improved lighting. Combined use of the Fire Circle by the community as well as Scout groups has doubled from the pre-restoration period. We have posted a QuickTime Movie link of this restoration.

Note: This file contains 78 photos in a QuickTime Movie format. Depending on your internet connection, it will take 20 seconds to several minutes to download, but you will be pleased you waited. Remember the 13th point of the Scout Law: "A Scout is Patient". Enjoy!

With Best Regards,

Robert Cory,
ASM, Troop 57