Recreation Pavilion Construction Update

Recreation Pavilion Construction Update

Historic building rehabilitation is no small undertaking.  Before work begins, at project initiation, you have to prepare an existing condition assessment.  This Report is a preservation and rehabilitation tool that identifies, describes, and generally evaluates the existing condition of a historic structure and its associated environment.  It is a detailed accounting of the material elements and components of the structure, including its structural system, exterior and interior finishes, architectural ornamentation and features, and building systems at that particular point in time.  Of concern to preservation and design professionals is the cumulative effect of seemingly minor changes over time, which can greatly diminish the integrity of a historic building. The Recreation Pavilion held many secrets.

One case in point is conducting a probe into the ornamental terra cotta to see the interior structure that may reveal problematic variations from the original design.  As we had hoped, the test pieces chosen were hollow.  We were able to use this information when preparing cost estimates and construction contracts.  However, when the remaining terra cotta was removed for cleaning, we found that only the two test pieces were hollow and all of the rest were filled with concrete and bricks.  Removing the terra cotta now became more difficult and time consuming as the infilled terra cotta stones were fragile and easily broken.

blogRepointing work on shed parapet 1

The design team and the contractors worked carefully to avoid damage to the character defining features and finishes like the terra cotta and now they had a challenge.  Fabricating replacement pieces was an option.  Save Ellis Island had contracted early in 2018 to have 66 replacement pieces made and ready for terra cotta that was missing or beyond repair.  Matching the design, color, texture and material of the original units took some month’s lead-time and we didn’t have the time to do this again.
The historic preservation masons went to work to repair the damage.  Stainless steel pins and epoxy were used to reunite the pieces and when the labor-intensive masonry work was complete, nearly all the broken terra cotta units were repaired.  The work delayed the project a bit but repairing the damaged pieces saved time.  It would have taken several months again to replace all of the broken terra cotta.  The reward being that much of the historic fabric was saved.

Preserving historic buildings is vital to understanding our nation's heritage.  In addition, it is an environmentally responsible practice.  By reusing existing buildings, historic preservation is essentially a recycling program of 'historic' proportions.  


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