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Saving an Old Lady   Leave a comment

Saving an Old Lady

This 30 foot stained glass and lead dome was restored by Dennis Kowal Architects in concert with the entire building restoration.

The lead and glass dome was in such poor condition, the Owner had installed a plywood ceiling to catch the falling glass and to protect the public.  Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) saved the dome from an uncertain fate with a full historic restoration plan.  The dome constructed in 1910 is located at the center of Winchester, Virginia; a city that changed hands 70 times during the Civil War.

Years of neglect resulted in bird, dust and pollution deposits on the back of the dome rendering the dome a dark, streaked mess.

Scaffolding was erected above to clean, replace, repair and reinforce the high vaulting dome.  Over 5,000 individual panes were inspected, identified and restored per instructions specific to each condition.  Many of the panes were missing or cracked.

Painstaking restoration under the direction of DKA repaired the cracked glass pieces, re-set the fallen pieces, replaced the missing pieces and fortified the entire structure with new supports and clips.

Apart from physical impact, the glass in a leaded glass installation is relatively long-lasting.  It is the deterioration of the skeleton structure that is the most common threat. Here the structure was reinforced before final cleaning of the repaired dome commenced. Federal preservation standards note that in many cases “minor cracks, sagging and oxidation are part of the character of historic leaded glass and require no treatment.” However, in this case, the dome was failing; needing reinforcement, new glass panes and repair to broken panes.

The entire dome was surveyed and treated on a pane by pane basis.  Note the replacement glass (in the prior photo) evidenced by the slightly different color which is not noticeable from below.

The Handley Regional Library is considered the finest example of Beaux Arts Architecture in the state of Virginia because it carries the proportions, materials and unique elements like the leaded glass dome and iron and glass floors.  Dennis Kowal Architects researched the insignias placed at the four compass points of the dome.  Each represents a printers mark.  A “printer’s mark” is a symbol used as a trademark by early printers starting in the 15th century.  Here the dolphin and anchor are the 16th century trademark of Aldus Pius Manutius, a Venetian publisher who is know as the inventor of the italic typeface.

The final result is a spectacular leaded glass dome with brilliant colors which were highlighted by placing an electric light above the dome.  Originally, the dome was only lit by natural light from eight circular windows above; which never quite reached the peak and left an overly dark, colorless center.  Kowal reported “Seeing the dome restored and backlit for the first time since it was installed in 1910 was breathtaking.  Details which were not apparent because of the dim previous lighting were now fully revealed.

Dennis Kowal Architects preserves the past.

 

 

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Windstorms and Preservation   1 comment

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Windstorms and Preservation

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The scroll that was blown off in the storm that left many on the east coast without power for days sat atop the dome (the scrolls are the bumps directly surrounding the cupola).  This view of the Handley Library is from the property of George Washington who surveyed this site and then owned the land until his death.

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70 mile an hour winds ripped through historic Winchester, Virginia on Friday, 29 June 2012 and lifted weighted wedding tents off the ground, destroyed trees and left its mark on the restored Handley Regional Library.  Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) completed the full renovation of this important building with a copper dome and limestone façade in 2001 and was on site to examine the damage the following Friday.   “Fortunately, the damage was limited to one copper scroll which was blown loose from the dome and some missing bird deterrents”.     Prior to the DKA renovation,  several  other scrolls blew free and were found in back yards of neighboring buildings.  These were recovered, repaired and re-installed under the direction DKA.  The recent loss was also recovered;  a little mangled but not damaged beyond repair.  The scrolls are decorative and so the copper dome remained weather tight during the storm.

“We had to design and fabricate a new scroll in 2001 to replace the permanently lost scroll” said Dennis Kowal.  The scroll is about three feet long and 18” high and is fabricated from 20 oz. copper.   Unfortunately, this makes them a light-weight, hollow box that can be carried by the wind if the solder points break.  The original scrolls are attached by nine points of spot solder,  while the new scroll is more generously attached.

The wind-blown scroll will be repaired and replaced  to again takes its place in the center of town.  Only a few human hands in history have touched this scroll since it sits 75 feet above the street at the very peak of the 36’ diameter dome.

A distraught Library Director, Trish Ridgeway, feigns regret over the damaged copper scroll that was blown off the restored Handley Library.  The scroll will be repaired and re-installed.

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One of the spot welds from the damaged scroll can be seen as a quarter-sized silver  button at the center of the photo.  The weld split off clean at the attachment point to the copper dome sheeting indicating that the surface was not properly cleaned of oils or that the substrate copper was not made  hot enough during the fusing process.

Before the renovation, the copper was more rust -red than verdigris green; the result of chemical interaction with years of pigeon guano. 

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Dennis Kowal Architects designed a copper replica of a missing 36” scroll which once crowned the Handley Copper Dome.  It is a match to the one recently blown off.   The new copper has been pre-aged by using a commercial patina formula (ammonium sulfate, copper sulfate, and concentrated ammonia)  which will quickly turn the copper  to verdigris green (like the cap flashing beneath).  Of course, putting shiny copper in a jar with a layer of kitty litter soaked in pure ammonia is a trick used by jewelry makers and artists to do the same thing.

A “derecho” (a violent and long-lived windstorm) swept  the mid-Atlantic coast causing destruction, death and  power loss to millions for days during the heat wave.  Many trees and major limbs fell in the historic  Mt. Hebron Cemetery just a few blocks from the Handley Library.

                                                       

Stewart Barney was the original architect of the Mt. Hebron Cemetery Gatehouse (1901) and the Handley Regional Library (1913), both in Winchester, Virginia.  This Cemetery also suffered wind damage but the Gatehouse appears intact.

For a variety of old formulas to patinate copper check out www.sciencecompany.com/-W160.aspx

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS preserves historic buildings.

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