25 December 2013 • The Commons

7 Feb

Wilmington landmark finally reopens

After Irene’s devastation, Dot’s Restaurant returns to cheers of Deerfield Valley residents

Originally published in The Commons issue #234 (Wednesday, December 25, 2013). This story appeared on page A1.

By Olga Peters/The Commons

WILMINGTON—A dull sky the color of papier-mâché, and frigid air coat downtown Wilmington. Yet not even predictions of a foot of snow can quell the celebratory atmosphere inside the snug and renovated Dot’s Restaurant.

Dot’s, a Deerfield Valley landmark and popular breakfast joint famous for its chili, quietly reopened last week after an extensive two-year rebuilding necessitated by Tropical Storm Irene.

Irene launched the restaurant owned by Patty and John Reagan to dubious national stardom on Aug. 28, 2011. The storm’s rains turned the Deerfield River into a raging wall of water that flooded downtown Wilmington. Internet videos documented how water swamped the riverside restaurant to its rafters.

The building seemed a total loss, but the Reagans promised to rebuild.

Inside the new restaurant -— a structural mix of historic, new, and flood-proof — conversation swirls as customers and wait staff playfully call to each other.

“[Dot’s] is really kind of a bunker,” said Matthew Yakovleff as he eats breakfast.

Yakovleff, a contractor, spent about a year helping rehabilitate the restaurant. Multiple flood-proofing measures went into the building, including a higher foundation and steel reinforcements. He also provided much of the finishing work inside, such as the wainscoting.

According to Yakovleff, the building’s footprint is unchanged, though the layout is new. The kitchen now sits to the back. The entrance doors are wider, better to accommodate wheelchairs. Gone is the restroom view of the Deerfield River. The restrooms have switched from the river side of the building to the Ray Hill side.

Home fries and hard work

Angela Yakovleff has missed breakfasts at Dot’s.

“They have the best home fries,” she said.

She and her husband ate at Dot’s every weekend while their two children were growing up.

According to Matthew, the construction crew needed to preserve portions of the historic structure. Some of the historic building remaining includes the frame and portions of the foundation.

The building was “horrible” thanks to wear, tear, and Irene, he said. Workers dismantled the building to its frame. To preserve the frame, the crew cut it from the foundation and lifted it with a crane to the back parking lot.

Once on solid ground, the crew braced and stabilized the frame to get it square, plumb, and true, said Matthew. It sat for about three weeks while workers rebuilt the foundation.

According to Matthew, a part of the foundation is original. The construction workers rehabilitated the original stone foundation. They also raised the height of the foundation as part of flood-proofing measures.

With the frame back on its foundation, the real work started, he said with a smile.

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