"When we come do a building like this, we really try to immerse ourselves in the condition of the structure," he said. "We're just now unpeeling the onion."
So far, Mills has discovered that the pavilion appears to sit on a stone foundation, with a layer of slate to serve as a waterproof barrier. On top of the slate is a foundation of brick, topped with sandstone blocks on which stand 12 cement-clad brick columns.
The roof sits atop the columns, sheltering the 32-square-foot basin.
But the neglected wood of the roof structure deteriorates with every year, and the bricks that hold up the columns are crumbling. Large sections of the brick foundation have crumbled away completely, leaving gaping holes beneath the sandstone.
Mills wonders how the massive pavilion is still standing. "It's a mystery," he said.
Margaret Hambrick, president of the Greenbrier County Historical Society and a member of the preservation group Friends of the Blue, said the pavilion and two acres of pasture land surrounding it were donated to the group by the current property owner. Friends of the Blue and the historical society hope to restore the pavilion before it topples to the ground.
"It's been here for nearly 200 years," she said. "We'd like to keep it for the next 200."
Earlier this year, the pavilion was named as one of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia's most endangered properties, making it eligible for special funding to help save threatened structures. The Mills Group and archeologists Cultural Resource Analysts Inc. were awarded a $59,000 contract to study the site and determine if the pavilion can be restored.
Hambrick said hopes are to restore the pavilion, reopen the site for public use and hold several special events at the location every year. Once restoration is complete, visitors may even be allowed to sample the sulfur-tinged waters of the basin.
Mills said his hunch is that the historic pavilion can still be saved and restored to its original glory. How much work will be involved and the cost are yet to be determined.
But he said time is of the essence.
"You can't wait five years, because it might not be here," he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.