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BSA Historic Resources Committee

Meeting Notes for April 2004

Present: Chelsea Blanchard, Eric Breitkreutz, Matthew Bronski, Michael DeLacey, Ric Detwiller, Taya Dixon, Marilyn Fenollosa, Katie Fleming, Sutton Giese, Jack Glassman, Karina Naza Gublea, Donna Harris, David M. Hart, John Hecker, Mark Jarvinen, Carl Jay, Wendall Kalsow, David Kelman, Peggy Kutcher, Ellen Lipsey, Michael Lynch, Doug Manley, Henry Moss, Ivan Myjer, Elizabeth Randall, Albert Rex, Brian Roche, Roberto Rosa, Susan Schur, Caroline Schwirian, Jonathan Smith, Regan Shields, Malcolm Smiley, Catherine Truman, Eric Ward, Sara Wermiel

1. HRC Guastavino Tour: Sara Wermiel and John Ochsehndorf are organizing a tour of Guastavino interiors in Boston for Friday, May 14 from 3:00 - 5:00 PM. Forsyth Institute, Horticultural Hall, and Church of Christ, Scientist are the planned destinations. The Forsyth Institute boasts art tiles by four manufacturers in addition to Guastavino. Sara recently visited a building designed by Guastavino in Spain (he was an architect.), built prior to his emigration to the U.S. To sign up (limited to 20), email Sara,

2. BSA Preservation Citation: Eric Ward and David Hart arranged for a special award from our committee for Stanley Smith, who is retiring from the position of Executive Director of Historic Boston after 25 years. David presented the citation to a surprised and grateful recipient at a farewell reception at the Old State House.

3. Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, Library, Envelope Repairs and Restoration: Carl Jay of Shawmut Design and Construction, Mark Jarvinen of Boston Building Consultants, and Catherine Truman of Ann Beha & Partners presented the waterproofing, masonry restoration, and interior finishes cleaning and restoration that they have done during the past three years at Louis Kahn's library. Carl explained that the original contractor did not install all the flashings as designed by Kahn and that there were a number of complicated three-dimensional flashing details (at scuppers, for example) that were vulnerable in any case. The building envelope began to fail immediately after it was completed. In most cases, drawn details were adequate, but were let down by their field execution.

A number of studies during its first forty years led to a variety of ineffectual palliative treatments, such as complete repointing. Ivan Myjer and Carl noted that Kahn had used a "black" mortar, but this was slurry coated during earlier attempts to stop leaks, without fully understanding the nature of the envelope failure. The light colored mortar now remains as the project did not include 100% repointing and it changes the overall appearance of the building.

Boston Building Consultants designed the envelope repairs. Project Engineer Mark Jarvinen showed the radical and extensive nature of their work, including the complete dismantling of brick piers, replacement of roofs, and removal of windows to insert new flashings. Roof terraces lacked drainage membranes and allowed water to penetrate the brick piers sufficiently to follow collar joints down between flashings.

Amazingly, the project was done while the building continued in use as Exeter's library. Carl described this as "operating on a watch while it was still running." Shawmut approached the work in a single phase from March to January, scaffolding and tackling two facades at a time in order to maintain a continuous progression of trades, especially masons, and to limit disruption to the school. Shawmut erected a variety of temporary screens and insulated interior partitions, but maintained natural light from at least two sides. NER was the masonry subcontractor, and this company also erected tented and heated scaffolding, shored the brick piers, and did most of the waterproofing. The tented scaffold brought wind loads to bear on the parapets and wide roof level piers, which complicated construction.

NER was able to salvage approximately 20% of the brick from demolished parapets to reuse at toothed flashing locations. The original waterstruck bricks were produced in wood-fired kilns by the Eno Brick Company in New Hampshire. Their 2 1/8" thickness required that the manufacturer of the new brick, Vermont Brick Company, make a custom mold. Vermont Brick Company created a special "Class of 1945 Library Brick Blend" for the project. Cubes of brick arrived at the site premixed on palettes containing Vermont University Hard Flash, Vermont Clinkers, Vermont Montpelier Red, Vermont Montpelier Red Light, and Bennington B & B Selects. In addition to his mix and salvaged brick, some Morin Blackstones were used. Carl reminded us that the brick selection and manufacturing process takes a minimum of five or six months.

Terrace roofs were covered with a liquid membrane, a sheet membrane, and sheet metal (lead coated copper) and 3-ply waterproofing membrane. Kahn's window design was integrated with white oak study carrels. The windows were flashed and reinstalled with new weeps in the original teak panels.

BBC and Shawmut were jointly committed to quality control with daily visits from the engineers. Shawmut flood tested every layer of the roofing membrane.

Catherine Truman worked on the interior; she devised affordable, minimally intrusive methods to clean concrete of water stains, restore the original finish of wood surfaces, and replace the carpet. After a dozen sample panels using Tung Oil and sealers including contemporary lacquers, she and consultant, Wayne Tell settled on an application technique that utilized the original specification. She concluded that it had been poorly applied when the building was built. The original carpet was 100% wool. Moving and replacing all the books to allow for new carpet would cost $750,000. Instead, she identified a system that allowed installation without their removal. The interior concrete is stained in discontinuous areas and has accumulated patches of efflorescence. To remove the concrete stains, a high pressure/low volume cleaning technique will be done from scaffolding in two lifts for successive summers.

4. Archdiocesan Property Disposal: The Archdiocese contacted the National Trust and Boston Preservation Alliance during the first week of April to ask for historic information that it might consider as part of its property disposition process. The Preservation Coalition that includes the Trust, BPA, BPL, MHC, Historic Boston and other regional preservation groups is planning to produce a stewardship guide for religious properties that could help both the Archdiocese with disposition and new congregations that acquire complexes of buildings in suppressed parishes. Albert Rex emphasized the importance of building ensembles in many places.

5. APT Northeast: Matthew Bronski and Michael Lynch reminded people that APT Northeast would meet from 5:00 - 7:00 PM at Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger's testing lab in Waltham on Wednesday, April 28. Contact Matthew or Michael at (800) 720-7429 ext. 264 (Matthew).

6. Granite and Marble Conference: Susan Schur announced that because of the Mother's Day timing of the conference (May 8 - 9), it will be possible to register for a single day at a reduced rate. It will also be possible to bring a guest (mother, husband, or wife) to the Sunday lunch. Contact Susan for details at (617) 623-4488. The BSA and MIT are co-sponsors of the conference.

Next Meeting


~ Early Modern Movement Houses in New England ~

by DOCOMOMO/US New England President, David Fixler

8: 00 a.m., Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Architects' Building, 52 Broad Street, 5th floor, Boston


Henry Moss AIA, Matthew Bronski, and Sara Wermiel, co-leaders and scribes