Earthquake Analysis   Leave a comment

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Earthquake Analysis

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Preservation Architect Dennis Kowal had just surveyed the Hoboken Library exterior (with the help of the Hoboken Fire Department Ladder Truck) prior to the earthquake creating a great baseline for comparison.

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At approximately 2pm EST on August 23rd 2011, the shock wave of a  5.9 earthquake centered 40 miles north of Richmond, Virginia reached the New York City area causing a slight movement to the ground which affected different buildings and different geological formations in varying ways.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS was immediately deployed to the historic Hoboken Public Library to examine the structure for safe occupancy and stabilization recommendations, if required.  The public and staff experienced a severe shaking of the building for forty five seconds and books fell off shelves, paint chips came off ceilings, windows rattled loud enough to break, and chandeliers swayed.

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It was feared that these decorative five foot tall urns at the top of the three story Hoboken Library were shaken loose. Remarkably, these showed no new signs of fracture. A vertical crack in an adjacent building may have resulted from movement of the structures. Vertical cracks and reports of falling plaster just inside this same area were reported by the staff of the Library.
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There were four areas of concern.

  1. The free-standing decorative urns seen surrounding the dome may have come  loose (they didn’t)

  2. The cracks in the plaster walls may have signified a dangerous structural shift (they didn’t)

  3. The observed loose lighting fixture was indicative of a pervasive condition (it wasn’t ). and

  4. The previously noted cracks in the terracotta exterior may have deepened or reduced the attachment integrity (they didn’t)

The Hoboken Library is under restoration by DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS.  The firm helped obtain a $1.5 million grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust.

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A light fixture broke loose during the quake and separated from the original tin ceiling. In years prior, some terracotta cornice pieces disengaged and it was feared that more of the building may have rattled loose.
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The Hoboken library was the first library built in New Jersey under the 1894 General Library Act. The Italian Renaissance-style Library has served the community in the same building for 114 years.

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Posted October 21, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation

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