Thomas McDowell, PA; AIC  Architectural Conservator

THE WYCK HOUSE  - Philadelphia, PA - Client: The Wyck Association, Jeff Groff, Director - Award Winner   

One of the candidates vying for the title of the oldest house in Philadelphia – Thomas McDowell provided project management for the conservation of all exterior woodwork, early renders/stucco and miscellaneous masonry. Funding was from the Getty Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trust and the State of Pennsylvania. A key element of this project was to hire and train local craftspeople by having them work with the conservators. We located, hired and developed the project crew and participated in their training. We were also responsible for budgeting, daily project administration, acquisition of materials, project accounting and expedited the development of the necessary conservation methodologies.  

During this project in 1994, the earliest significant revival in the US of the use of quicklime to produce pure lime putty mortars and renders took place. All mortars and renders were designed using the historic aggregate from a nearby river and quick lime from local limestone. The liquid from the slaking of the hot lime was used for consolidation of friable renders. Each day for many weeks the water was removed from the top of the recently slaked quick lime and misted on all decayed early stucco surfaces. A remarkable improvement was noted after a month of this treatment. This same lime putty, made by slaking “hot lime” on site was the basis for the white wash that was reapplied to all rendered surfaces.  

After a thorough paint analysis and documentation by Morgan Phillips, leaving representative “records” of the stratigraphy in discreet locations, all historic lead paint was removed from early exterior woodwork, cornice, sash, shutters and doors to allow for the conservation, consolidation and 
repainting of all exterior woodwork. Through the use of epoxy consolidation and rebuilding techniques, developed by Morgan Phillips, all     
original exterior woodwork – most deriving from the first half of the 18th century – was retained. There are many successful conservators, preservationists and preservation craftsmen/contractors who “graduated” through the doors of the Wyck project.

Preservation Projects - Homes and House Museums
THE FARNSLEY KAUFMANN HOUSE - Louisville, Kentucky    

As the Preservation Consultant Thomas McDowell has assisted the FK House Committee from its inception in unraveling the construction chronology, producing existing conditions surveys, budgeting, preservation planning and the architectural conservation of the fragile surviving materials in the existing 1812 log and 1830's brick structure. Stabilization efforts included insertion of a steel armature hidden behind finishes and siding. Using state of the art paint analysis techniques provided by conservation scientists combined with both above ground and traditional archeological procedures I supervised and implemented the initial stages in the compilation of an Historic Structures Report now being produced by the Masters Degree Program in Historic Preservation in the College of Architecture at the University of Kentucky. Serving to support both local Middle School history classes and graduate preservation students, this project has been a hands on experience for Kentucky students of all ages. 

LIBERTY HALL - Frankfort, KY -   Client: The Colonial Dames

Built in 1796 for the Honorable John Brown, Liberty Hall was experiencing accelerated deterioration of masonry substrates through moisture intrusion. I provided moisture infiltration analysis to identify the sources of infiltration and furnished corrective recommendations. RGI also provided project management and design services to reconstruct the original kitchen gable end including flues and chimney to allow a program of hearth cooking demonstrations. This house possessed the finest remaining 18th century limestone entry stair in Kentucky but was deteriorating from two centuries of moisture intrusion, ground subsidence and frost jacking. Masterfully fabricated by 18th century stone cutters, the entire stair had been carved from the Kentucky Marble (the Tyrone member of the High Bridge Group), the original stair was dismantled, foundations poured and the original stair components cleaned and reset during the repairs.