restoration

South Façade Restoration Project

South Façade Restoration Project

The Old State House is currently covered in scaffolding and green scrim. In this post, go behind-the-scenes with our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation to learn more about the work that is going on to restore the south facade of our building.

Preservation Month at the Old State House (Part IV)

May is Preservation Month, a chance to celebrate the historic buildings that make up our cultural landscape, and to honor the continued work that is done to maintain this building. At the Old State House, we are taking this opportunity to look back on some of the preservation and restoration projects that the Society has completed in the last decade. Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, concludes his series this week with a look at work that was done from 2012-2015 but read his previous posts here

West Façade, East Balcony, and Lion & Unicorn Restoration

 

West Façade

In 2012, the Society convened a team that included Judy Selwyn, a historic preservation consultant; David Storeygard, an architect; Mark Webster, a structural engineer; and myself, to review conditions of the west façade. Using a man-lift the team inspected the Old State House with a strong focus on its west façade. By viewing the conditions up close, the group found major deterioration issues.

The team concluded that the building had been hemorrhaging moisture, leading to decay and ice-damage. The OSH, built in 1713, was not designed to have a modern HVAC system and the wood and masonry of the building had not responded well in the 25 years since its installation.  During cold months, positive air pressure maintained inside the building had pushed warm humid air out, through cracks and openings in the façades.  Where the humid air encountered the cold surfaces of windows, walls, and sheathing, it condensed and froze on the building, forming ice-dams and causing cracks in masonry and rot in the wood.  Water drip marks are visible on the windows and balustrades. The Society installed a relief fan and ventilation in the building’s tower to alleviate the HVAC concerns.

Brick work at the Old State House
The Society then focused its efforts on restoration of the west façade. The preservation team recommended rebuilding the upper chimney section, salvaging and reusing fully-sound bricks, and supplementing those with new, matching bricks. Cast stone elements were replaced with Portland Brownstone, and exterior lighting fixtures were replaced with smaller LED fixtures.  On the parapet, sealant was applied to the step-flashing on the rear side and ‘L’-shaped lead caps will be added at the coping wall transition where the scrolls sit. All mortar joints of the entire west façade were cut out and repointed. This work included the resetting of loose bricks and the replacement of any isolated, deteriorated bricks. The cement wash of the two belt courses was replaced as necessary.

Windows on the west façade were in various states of deterioration. All of them required sanding, feathering, and spot-priming of their surfaces, as well as replacement of defective putty. The two ox-eye windows needed to be removed, so that they could be stripped, repaired, and painted off-site, before they were reinstalled with new flashing and sealant. The center window on the second floor needs a new wood sill and sealant.


East Balcony

The restored balcony, ready to be assembled and reinstalled
The iconic balcony, from which the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians in 1776, was in need of restoration. Due to exposure to severe weather conditions in Boston's historic center, wood and masonry throughout the building had deteriorated significantly over the years. The Society executed the following work in 2014-15:
  • Replacement of the decayed wooden corner posts and rails;
  • Repair of the doors and surrounds;
  • Re-flashing and sealing of areas connecting the masonry and wood;
  • Repainting of all woodwork. 

Lion & Unicorn Restoration

In the fall of 2014 the Society teamed with Skylight Studios to regild the lion and unicorn statues that sit atop the building on the east façade. Using a man-lift and crane, the two statues were carefully lowered into specially constructed crates for transportation to Skylight Studios. Once on-site and unpacked, the statues received much needed care. First the remaining gilding had to be stripped from the statues and the copper cleaned. Next, the statues were covered in a special primer and a clear material called size. The size is a tacky substance that gold and platinum leaf adheres to.  The process was complete once the many individual sheets of gold or platinum were layered on the statues. The lion and unicorn statues were then returned to the Old State House and revealed during a small ceremony before being reinstalled on their individual perches.


Preservation and restoration work at the Old State House is on-going.  For information on how you can help preserve this national treasure, please call 617-720-1713 ext. 16, or send us an email.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Preservation Month at the Old State House (Part III)

May is Preservation Month, a chance to celebrate the historic buildings that make up our cultural landscape, and to honor the continued work that is done to maintain this building. At the Old State House, we are taking this opportunity to look back on some of the preservation and restoration projects that the Society has completed in the last decade. Follow along as Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, highlights four of our most important projects to maintain this iconic 300+ year old building. Catch up by reading Matt's first post and second post.
 

Restoration of Whitmore Hall


During the 18th century the first floor of the Old State House was largely an open hall, with a row of columns down the middle and two stairways with small offices beneath them, dividing the expanse approximately into thirds. Now known as Whitmore Hall, this space served as a merchants’ exchange, and in this capacity also served as a place to exchange news and political views, particularly about the actions of the legislature and the Royal Governor upstairs. During the 19th century, two partition walls were erected to divide the space on the east end of the first floor. There was a wall crossing north to south dividing the space in half, and then an east-west wall on one side of the north-south wall. Those walls, however, were shortened in 1903, after construction of the subway station beneath this part of the building required that the first floor be raised.

Whitmore Hall, looking NE before restoration
A 2007 National Endowment for the Humanities panel of scholars and community members proposed opening up the first floor as much as possible, in order to restore some sense of the merchants’ exchange. Contributing to the 18th century feel of the building would be the primary goal, but the panel also suggested that removing the walls in Whitmore Hall would aid in setting the building in a place.

After receiving approval, the project got underway in early 2009. We opened up a few exploratory holes in the ceiling of the space, and what we found surprised us. On one hand, we confirmed that the partition walls definitely were not load-bearing. On the other hand, we found that the ceiling had pulled away from the joists by as much as four inches.

Whitmore Hall, looking NE after restoration
In the next few days, in addition to the engineer and our architects, we had several professionals consult on this problem. The consensus was that the entire ceiling in this section of the building was not structurally sound and should be replaced. The outermost layer of plaster dated to the 1980s, with metal lathe. Above that was a horsehair plaster layer with wood lathe, dating to 1882. While it was not possible to retain the horsehair plaster and wood lathe without compromising structural integrity, we did retain the ceiling framing, and added additional support. We were also able to retain the 1882 plaster molding running along the perimeter of the room.

Removing the old plaster allowed us to examine and document the ceiling’s support system, including four 13” x 13” wooden girders spanning about 34 feet, dating to 1748. One is spaced between each window, spanning from the north wall to the south wall, throughout the first floor. The girders are among the building’s oldest surviving architectural elements, and the four in this section of the building were in quite good shape. One girder had to be repaired and sistered with steel I-beams as it had been previously cut and patched with wood. As part of the project, we installed a viewing panel to allow visitors to see one of these massive old beams for themselves.

We even left clues as to how the room had been previously divided:
  • The Douglas Fir floor boards that run perpendicular to the rest of the floor to signify the wall that once ran east-west through the space.
  • The furthest east column was left unique and does not match the others, as it was installed at a later date and is a reminder of the division.
  • We chose not to continue the center beam that runs along the column line in Whitmore Hall, but the termination of it will be a trace of the former division.
  • The “floor rail” in the old Preservation Room was retained along the east and north walls as a reminder of the space having once been used for an office.
At this time we also undertook the restoration of the medallion in Representatives Hall. Water damage to the ceiling had prompted an investigation of the historic medallion, and it was found to be in need of some minor repairs and securing. Conservator Louise Freedman of L.H. Freedman Studios (a division of Boston Creative Inc.) was brought in to restore the medallion. Originally thought to be plaster, the medallion was actually found to be made of carved wood. Dating to the 1882 renovation of the Old State House by George Clough, the medallion was covered in multiple layers of paint. The paint was scraped off by hand over the course of three days. The wood was then sealed and an epoxy was injected behind the medallion to re-secure it to the ceiling. It was then primed and painted. The final step was to spread a tinted glaze over the medallion to highlight the carving.


Check back next week for our final installment of our Preservation Month series!

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Preservation Month at the Old State House (Part II)

May is Preservation Month, a chance to celebrate the historic buildings that make up our cultural landscape, and to honor the continued work that is done to maintain this building. At the Old State House, we are taking this opportunity to look back on some of the preservation and restoration projects that the Society has completed in the last decade. Follow along as Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, highlights four of our most important projects to maintain this iconic 300+ year old building. Catch up by reading Matt's first post here.

Restoration of the Tower 2008


Old State House with tower scaffolding
During the 18th century, the Old State House tower was one of the highest spots in Boston and an excellent place to watch the ships come and go in the harbor. Eight years ago it was an excellent place to get wet during a nor-easter. Much of the tower’s wood siding had become so rotted that water streamed inside during bad storms, then seeped down to the lower floors of the building. The damage also threatened the still-functioning 1831 Simon Willard clock, the face of which is located in between the lion and unicorn statues on the east façade.

The Tower Restoration Project took place from April to July 2008, and included replacement of wood siding on all four faces, repair and reglazing of the tower windows, installation of new flat-seam copper roofing, and selective repair or replacement of wood balusters and other deteriorated architectural features.

The last piece of new siding is installed on the tower
Over the course of the project, I was up on the scaffolding every day, coordinating the work with the preservation crew and investigating the tower’s history. The architectural elements that make up the tower do not all date to the same time period; some are as old as 1748 and others are as new as 1990. Dating these elements and determining how they fit together was an important part of the project. The crew made some interesting discoveries, including: an intricate system of angled beams, dating to 1748, which serve as framing for the dome; what are likely to be 18th-century boards, held in place with hand-wrought nails, underneath the tower's copper flashing; and charred wood from the building's last major fire, in 1921.

To find out what else was discovered, see more pictures, and learn more details about the tower project, visit the project blog.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Preservation Month at the Old State House (Part I)

May is Preservation Month, a chance to celebrate the historic buildings that make up our cultural landscape, and to honor the continued work that is done to maintain this building.  At the Old State House, we are taking this opportunity to look back on some of the preservation and restoration projects that the Society has completed in the last decade.  Follow along as Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, highlights four of the most important projects that have preserved this iconic 300+ year old building.

Restoration of the Northeast Corner 2006


The Old State House during restoration
The Old State House's bricks are the oldest part of the building. This aging masonry has long been subject to water penetration, particularly at the northeast corner, where surrounding office towers focus and magnify the effects of rain and wind off the harbor. This problem escalated in the fall of 2005, when the remains of Hurricane Wilma passed through Boston and brought the water-penetration problem to crisis proportions. Water poured through the walls to the interior, damaging plaster and wainscoting, and threatening the building's structural integrity as well as the priceless collection of historical artifacts housed inside.

During the summer of 2006, the Bostonian Society spearheaded a three-month project to investigate the causes of persistent water damage to the northeast corner, to restore masonry on the east and north façades of the building, interior plaster and wainscoting, and to create a permanent solution to ongoing water penetration. The Society raised nearly $2 million for this and the ensuing phase of the project—more than its entire annual operating budget—within a mere six months.

Water damage at the Old State House
This project won a national award from the American Association for State and Local History and is featured in an episode of the History Channel's Save Our History series.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Ready for the summer - Old State House restoration work wraps up!

Crowds gather in front of the east façade
As many of you may have noticed there was more work being done on the Old State House last month. The return of warm weather at the beginning of May allowed the Society and its contractors, Commodore Builders, to complete the finish work to the balcony and east façade.

Last November the scaffolding on the west façade was removed to reveal the newly pointed and painted west end. At that time, work continued on the balcony and east façade. As the days of the month ticked away, the weather became our biggest enemy. When the calendar finally turned to December, our luck ran out. With all of the major work done, the weather called for the finish work to take a hiatus until the spring.

While no one could have predicted the winter Bostonians went through, the Old State House and its recently repaired façade, statues, and balcony handled it perfectly. Unseasonably cool weather and the large amounts of snow pushed our spring return for the finish work further down the calendar.

As April turned to May, sun and warmth was finally on our side. Commodore Builders came back on site with a lift for the finish coat of paint on all the wooden elements of the east façade. Completing the work in a week, the project which began last fall came to an end. Now on sunny mornings, the lion and unicorn sparkle, the balcony and windows show bright, and by the afternoon the west façade is illuminated to show a bright and sound façade.

The Society would like to thank Commodore Builders, Storeygard Associates Architects, Preservation Technology Associates, and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger for all their hard work.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Restoration work is nearly complete!

It’s been a while since the last project update, so here we go. As many of you have been following the time capsule story, the restoration project that led to its discovery has been moving towards completion.

By the end of October the masonry restoration on the west façade was finished, deteriorated wood at the windows and door surround was replaced, and painting was completed. At the start of November the scaffolding came down to reveal a newly pointed and painted façade, although the average person walking by would likely not notice the work done. That is our goal during restoration projects, to make the necessary repairs and replacements without it appearing that we did anything.

The work on the east façade continued as well. The balcony balustrade and moldings were repaired and reinstalled. A late October storm caused damage to the window below the clock, so repairing that window was added to the project, and it has since returned with a new frame that exactly matches the previous one. Replacement of the balcony doors is being worked on as we speak, with new doors being fabricated due to the deterioration found on the old ones after removal and striping of the paint. Painting of the wood work on the east façade is in progress.

Most recently, the Lion and Unicorn statues were returned to the building after slightly more than two months away for restoration. Skylight Studios repaired and regilded the statues, the Lion in gold and the Unicorn in palladium. The new time capsule fabricated and donated by John F. Shea Co. could be seen from below as the crane from Marr Rigging lifted the Lion up to be secured in place by the crew from NER Building Restoration. All the while our general contractor Commodore Builders ensured a smooth day.

As the project comes to substantial completion, the Society needs a few more days of good weather and continued good work from all involved in the project.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

We're in the news!

If you've been following along on our blog, you know that the Old State House is in the middle of a restoration project.  Nearly two weeks ago, the iconic Lion and Unicorn statues were removed from their perch on the east façade of the Old State House.  There was rumored to be a time capsule placed in the Lion's head, and earlier this week Skylight Studios artist Bob Shure and Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, were able to confirm its existence by using a special fiber optics camera.

We're thrilled that this news has been picked up by local, national, and even international media outlets.  In case you haven't had a chance to read any of the articles or watch any video, we've included links to some below:



http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/25/bostons-century-old-time-capsule-thought-discovered-in-lions-head/

Stay tuned as we finalize plans to open the time capsule!

Restoration Project Update!

The Old State House has been full of activity in the last two weeks. After the scaffolding was finished the first week in September, work immediately began on cutting the old mortar joints. Our contractor, Commodore Builders, had the crew from NER Building Restoration moving at a solid pace throughout the cutting process, even though most of the work is done by hand. The mortar cutting is done with a single saw blade cut through the center of the joint and then the mortar is chiseled out by hand to avoid damaging the historic brick. During the work a very interesting line of lead flashing was found buried in the old mortar joints along the floor level of the second floor. Reviewing historic photos, it is currently believed that the flashing is a remnant of a small balcony located on the west façade during the mid 19th-century.

Last week, the carpentry crew from M&A Architectural was on-site to remove the balcony doors and balustrade for restoration. The removal of the wooden elements from the balcony went smoothly and although deteriorated wood was easily spotted on the removed pieces, the urns that adorned the balustrade posts were in great shape. Over the next two weeks, the carpenters will be back at the Old State House to remove some windows and other building elements for restoration.

The biggest news was the removal of the iconic Lion and Unicorn statues on the east façade. On Sunday, Commodore Builders team from NER and Marr Rigging successfully removed, crated, and delivered the two large animals. Made from hollow copper, the statues are being restored by the staff at Skylight Studios, the same place the statues were restored in 1991. The first step to the restoration of the statues is to find whether there is truth behind the documentation of a 1901 time capsule in the Lion’s head. Finding out if a capsule has been residing in the Lion is not a simple task and the exploration must be done carefully. Skylight Studios and the Bostonian Society will examine the Lion and hopes to have a very exciting announcement in the next couple of weeks.

During the next couple of weeks, the re-pointing of the west façade will begin, more information will be gathered from the wooden elements taken from the balcony, and of course more news on the Lion and Unicorn. Stay tuned to the blog and our website for updates.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

Old State House restoration has begun!

The long wait is over! Our much anticipated West Façade Restoration Project is officially underway. Last weekend Commodore Builders delivered and set up the scaffolding on a busy Saturday. The project includes full re-pointing of the façade, repairs to the chimney, restoration to the windows and some wood elements, and repainting of the woodwork.

While the majority of the work is focused on the west façade, there will be work taking place on the east end of the building as well.
The Society has also been fortunate enough to have raised funds for the restoration of the balcony and the Lion and Unicorn statues. The work on the east façade will be scheduled in the next couple of weeks and will include a crane for the removal of the statues for their restoration at Skylight Studios in Woburn.

The Old State House will be open throughout the work and readers of this blog are encouraged to stop by and see preservation and restoration in action. We will be posting updates here throughout the project, so check back often.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation