Thomas McDowell, PA; AIC  Architectural Conservator

Preservation Projects: Public Buildings
HOPEWELL MUSEUM work done as RESTORATION GROUP LLC - Thomas McDowell and Tony Vince

The Hopewell Museum was originally designed and constructed in the Beaux Arts style as the Paris Kentucky City Post Office by the Supervising Architect of the Treasury (SAT) in 1908 – 1910. The former Post Office is a masonry (brick) bearing wall structure with significant terra cotta detailing, specifically, at the cornice/balustrade, an impost band and all original entries. As constructed it included a wooden principle rafter system, roof frame - covered with a standing seam, terne metal roof with a hidden, perimeter, flat lock, terne metal, built-in gutter system. A new wooden frame roof was installed above the original by the city of Paris sometime before the Hopewell Museum occupied the building. During this alteration the existing K-style gutters and rectangular leaders were installed - the original hidden gutter system now being covered by the new roof. Previously, the roof drainage went to the city storm sewers via an internal, cast iron and copper, concealed drainage system, parts of which still remain, although disconnected when the new roof system was installed by the city. The new roof system included aluminum leaders draining to the soil surrounding the foundations and by-passing the original subsurface system.
The original terra cotta cornice sections abutted each other at a raised joint which had been sealed with mortar. As was the practice in most buildings either ornamented or solely constructed of terra cotta the system required extensive steel reinforcement, tie backs and structure embedded in mortar inside the mostly hollow ornament securing the ornamental system back into the actual building structure. The embedded structure was all mild steel and consisted principally of angle irons, lintels, threaded rods and bolts, I beams, plates, dowels and wire. Each of the butt joints in the horizontal run of the cornice had begun to leak sometime early in the buildings history. Each of these failed joints had been covered with multiple layers of caulk, tar and other sealants. This treatment failed to keep the water out of the concealed steel structure causing most of the structure to corrode – some sections seriously – losing cross section and deforming the cornice - as a result of the oxidative expansion of the steel structure known as “oxide jacking”. The corrosion was most threatening at the locations where the new hanging gutter had been dumping water on the original cornice for decades due to poor design – and ice related malformations. The corrosion had completely compromised some of the original tie back design causing the 100-pound corner sections to detach.
A complete cleaning was necessary due to discoloration caused by moisture infiltration. Parts of the cornice were missing due to previous poor repairs and ice jacking. Significant amounts of the glaze had been lost, leaving the more porous interior open to deterioration. All open skyward facing joints were cleaned and protected with a lead T-cap detail; all glaze spalls were sealed and all cracks and fissure filled with an appropriate grout. Missing or broken sections of the terra cotta were recreated using the Jahn terra cotta patching material. The loose and broken corner pieces were repaired and tied back to the structure using stainless steel cable and where possible, at the badly deteriorated areas, passive cathodic protection measures were installed to stop the corrosion of the interior steel structure. This project won the 2017 award from Heritage Kentucky for Preservation Craftsmanship.

The only Richardsonian Romanesque, sandstone church in the Bluegrass had deteriorated severely as a result of failed drainage systems. I provided conditions assessment followed with masonry restoration specifications and supervised the cleaning and restoration of the stone and terra cotta, and replacement or renewal of all rainwater disposal goods including the slate roofing . Significant deterioration of the bell tower resulted from deferred maintenance, which required the tower masonry structure to be rebuilt from the top of the arched openings up. The tower roof was not dismantled but temporarily suspended from corner supports. Historic research alowed me to locate the quarry (long since abandoned) that was the original source of the decaying sandstone in the bell tower. Fortunately the current owner of the historic quarry agreed to allow Central Christian Church to reprocess a few of the abandoned quarry blocks in order to secure sufficient quantities of stone to provide replacement material for the masonry restoration contractor.

I was selected to provide project management and preservation consulting services to repair the 1996 tornado damage to eight historic buildings on this historic campus. Extensive repair and replacement of roofs including: Ludowici tile, slate, copper and lead coated copper. Cornice moldings were duplicated to match the original profiles of the nineteenth century construction. Pure lime putty mortars were formulated to match the existing masonry. Stone repairs required extensive use of Jahn patching mortars. A tight time schedule was adhered to despite the traditional constraints of working on a college campus.

BOONE TAVERN     Berea, KY     
I was selected to provide project management and preservation consulting services for the restoration and repair of the exterior of this National Register site. Extensive repair, replacement and conservation of the wooden columns, reinforced gypsum capitals, painting, roofing and gutter repair/relining were included in the project. Wooden structure inside the masonry columns had rotted allowing the roof above to subside – crushing the Scamozzi capitals. New capitals were cast matching the orginals and new steel structure replaced the deteriorated wood inside the columns. Wooden decorative features were treated with borates, consolidated with epoxy resins and missing portions molded or carved to match originals with epoxy putties.

In June 2004 GSA completed a $177 Million historic renovation project at the Robert F. Kennedy Building. The project resulted in a modernization of all building systems, the renovation and preservation of all office space, the cleaning and conservation of extensive WPA art work and the modernization of the roofing system. It was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. The project has received several awards to date including GSA's National Design Award for Conservation and Preservation and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Project of the Year Award. I was the government Preservation and Fine Arts Officer for this project and was responsible for review and guidance of all art and architectural conservation work spread throughout the 1,000,000 square foot structure including review and sign off authority for all WPA era sculpture and paintings that were part of a $2,500,000.00 art conservation effort (see art conservation coordination page). As the government Preservation Officer for this project Mr. McDowell was responsible for all specification and mockup review including the removal and cataloguing of all cut stone components and the cast aluminum fountain from the Monumental Courtyard in order to accommodate structural repairs and waterproofing of the basement utility and parking area directly beneath this courtyard. Once the structural repairs were complete, all limestone elements were restored to their original position.  

A comprehensive systems modernization of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building began in the early months of 2004 – to be completed in 2010. Discoveries made during the process of inserting infrastructure into this masonry bearing wall building motivated the restoration of the former Secretary of Wars’ Suite. Completed in 1888 these spaces comprised the most highly decorated spaces of any Federal building in the inventory of the General Services Administration. Gold leaf of various alloys, metallic powder paints, glass ornament, molded gesso, Santo Domingo mahogany, intricate parquetry floors, skilled decorative painting of cornices and important secco ceiling murals had been painted over and hidden for decades. A team of architectural and art conservators labored for months to conserve surviving original surfaces and features and to restore the entire suite to its original splendor. Mr. McDowell was both the government Fine Arts and Preservation Officer for this effort. Establishing scopes of work, competency review, mock up review, general curatorial direction and providing comments for all preservation related submission were his assignments while on this project. Mr. McDowell also completed historic research that yielded significant information correcting previous mistaken attributions of both the artists/decorators involved and the materials used in the Suite to help maximize the Authenticity of the governments efforts. This building is once again the Jewel in the Crown of the Public Building Service.