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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003 02:20 pm

A neat trade

The lost art of window washing


For the last 12 years, Mike Chase has been cleaning the windows of the Great Western Railroad Depot, where Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd, and their children bid farewell to Springfield before heading to Washington, D.C. Chase, owner of Rayvon Window Cleaning in New Berlin, also cleans the windows of the Old State Capitol. "These windows can be challenging because they are older," he says. "The glass is just not as good, and it is harder to clean."

Cleaning the windows of the four-story Old State Capitol is a four-phase job, says Chase. "First you mop wash the window, next you squeegee, then shammy, then towel dry. The panes are five- to eight-inches wide and ten-inches deep. There are a lot of panes to clean."

As a former ironworker, Chase isn't afraid of heights. But his crew often thinks twice before scaling the 40-foot ladders. In training sessions, he stresses the dictum of safety first. "We take precautions," he says. Insurance now plays a big part in doing business. "When I go to a home or building, I have to take a copy of my insurance with me."

Chase says window cleaning is a dying trade, but when it's done right it's almost an art form. Most people take it for granted, because they're not supposed to notice his handiwork. "When the windows are shining and gleaming," he says, "it looks like there is no glass."

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