“Soft Reds and Hard Tans” Exploring Historic Masonry Architecture in the French Quarter

by Randy Ruth

New Orleans. It’s quite the town especially during the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, known as Carnival. Technically beginning on January 6th and concluding on the day before Ash Wednesday (aka Fat Tuesday), the long celebration is concentrated on the final few weeks, giving rise to more frequent parades and events.  Granted I had never been there before but what I expected was much different from my experience. As a Philadelphia native, I had assumed that it’s nothing but one insane party similar to events that might occur during the Mummers parade on New Year’s Day in Philly, and be only on Fat Tuesday. What I had experienced was by far richer in both culture and architectural significance. I don’t mean this to down play the heritage of historically significant Philadelphia. It’s just that New Orleans has a charm that I believe to be facilitated by it organic architectural style, originating in function over form.

Spending most of my time in the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans also known as the French Quarter or as some may traditionally refer to it as Vieux Carré, I felt a certain type of warmth from the people and its buildings. The symbiotic relationship felt I found to be rooted in the architecture bound mostly by French, Spanish and African influence. This dynamic create a true Creole culture. Perhaps this is why nobody can exactly pinpoint the exact year that Carnival festivities began, a very real unique place and people whose origins can be traced to their roots but only studied in regard to its complex organic creation. The trend can be translated to local architecture in the French quarter however it is a bit easier to study.

A New Orleans local showed me around the French Quarter explaining all the influences of Spanish, French, African and local climate on many of the buildings architecture. Probably the most iconic would be the balconies and galleries extending over the sidewalks. Just to be clear balconies are cantilevered into the building with no supporting posts extending halfway over the sidewalk, while galleries typically extend to the edge of the street. Unbeknownst to me I found that the reason for this is threefold.

First, has to deal with the influence of the Spanish and French architects designing buildings since New Orleans beginnings. However, more often than not these buildings needed to be protected from the weather. Wind driven rain during hot summers created the need to have large open windows to permit air flow but something needs to prevent the buildings from getting wet on the inside, hence the need for balconies to act as an eve to prevent rain from entering the interior. The same principle also protects the inferior masonry walls. New Orleans suffers from poor clay local clay for making bricks. The result being bricks called “soft reds & hard tans” that in most cases must be protected with a stucco or render of lime.

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What is currently known as the Napoleon house was first occupied by the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. Although Napoleon never came he was offered this residence during his exile in 1822.

 

 

 

 

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Detailing of deteriorated “Soft red” brick rendered with lime stucco as a Trompe L’oei to imitate limestone blocks on the Napoleon House.

 

 

 

Another defining characteristic of architecture in the French Quarter is the entresol, also known as mezzanine. Entresol’s were needed for storage in commercial buildings due to the high local water table.  Looking at the exterior of a building one can clearly notice the well defined tall window front that help hide the storage floor between the 1st and 2nd floors.

 

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This store front exemplifies the use of an entresol commonly found in the French Quarter.

 

 

 

Due to New Orleans high water table, rising damp is a big issue for many of the building. Because the majority of the historic Buildings located in the Vieux Carré district were built before the advent of Portland cement, lime was used and accommodated moisture very well.  However, today pure lime technology is used to restore the local historic properties, which results in fewer lost or damaged cultural resources.

The time I spent in New Orleans was certainly too limited. There was far too much to see in the few days I was there. Its impact left me forever moved by its places and people. For anyone who has not been there. GO! The treasure hidden in the city is everywhere, waiting for people to experience it and take a piece of it home. Perhaps the next time I visit I will see you there.

 

 

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Case Study on Masonry Repair and Patching Material – Lithomex

Damaged stone and brick is a common problem for many historic structures around the world. Lithomex is a breathable in-kind repair material for most types of damaged stone and brick. The following is an example of a Lithomex repair on a historic 19th century stone house…

Lithomex Repair in Merion Station, PA:

This house, located in Merion Station Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, was constructed in the 1920s during the Arts and Crafts style movement. This movement was a direct descendant of the British Arts and Crafts movement which was initiated by William Morris during the mid 1800s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and its lack of concern for human lives in the work place. This movement was meant to bring back pride to the true craftsmen once again with an emphasis on hand-made vs. mass production.

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Before applying Lithomex

This house was handcrafted using a variety of stone including Mica Schist, Serpentine, Red Sandstone, Brownstone, PA Bluestone, and some Limestone. It was originally pointed with a high Portland cement content mortar, either 5:1:2 or 1:3 formula of Cement, Lime and sand. Unfortunately this was a recipe for disaster.

During the following 80 years, the softer sandstones received the greatest damage due to the freeze/ thaw cycles of the cold Pennsylvania winters. This combined with later modifications including new windows which were installed improperly allowed water to be trapped behind and within the stone walls. Leaks developed within the house and the homeowners decided it was time to fix things the right way.

BEFORE PHOTOS

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Lithomex being applied

A team from Galli Masonry Restorations took on the challenge to bring this historic home back to its original glory. First they removed all the old pointing and filled in the voids with LimeWorks.us Natural Hydraulic Lime mortar. Then blended with Lithomex colors and textures to replicate the original look of the stone. The damaged serpentine, brownstone and bluestone was repaired and blended in to be virtually unnoticeable.  The color and composition of the final pointing work was chosen by the homeowner which was a mix of Ecologic® Mortar DGM non-pigmented, DGM Grey and black Slag-fleck.

 

 

 

Back Camera
Back Camera


 

Damaged stone

 

 

 

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Damaged wall at window

 

 

 

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Measuring damaged serpentine stone

 

 

 

 

 

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Lithomex on chimney

 

 

 

 

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Crafting Lithomex

 

 

 

 

AFTER PHOTOS

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Side of house after Lithomex application image 1

 

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 2

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 3

 

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 5

 

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 6

 

 

 

 

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After Lithomex application image 7

 

 

 

All Photos Copyright George Galli, Galli Masonry Restoration

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The Bill of Rights for Masonry Structures by Larry D. Jones

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Article 1
Respect all that is left of me, sacred as it is, my historic fabric.

 

 

 

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Article 2
Clean me not, unless it serves to halt my further deterioration.

 

 

 

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Article 3
But, if you must, clean me first, just water please, and the gentlest means possible.

 

 

 

 

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Article 4
If am clean, but still look old, leave me be, graceful aging, it is called.

 

 

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Article 5
Whatever you do, please don’t boil me in acid or scour me with sand.

 

 

 

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Article 6
Know that a good state of repair is in itself, good preservation.

 

 

 

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Article 7
Know what is wrong with me, before you plan how to fix me.

 

 

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Article 8
Repair me only where I need it, and with materials just like me.

 

 

 

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Article 9
If I am leaking water, find out where and fix just that.

 

 

 

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Article 10
Please, no cure-all surface treatments to cover me up or clog my pores.

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

1 Bryan Papciak
2 Sean K Maxwell
3 Kate Milford
4 Steven A. Cholewiak
5 Rasekh Fatmi
6 Trey Ratcliff
7 Trey Ratcliff
8 Trey Ratcliff
9 Frank DiBona
10 Trey Ratcliff

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Repairing Broken and Damaged Stone and Brick using Lithomex – FAQ by Randy Ruth

by Randy Ruth

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Of course following the Lithomex technical data sheet is important to ensure a quality application, but what about the little things that can’t fit on one sheet of paper?  The small details that help make good finish “POP” into a quality indistinguishable patch. There are many things that are far to subtitle to translate onto paper from experience and feel of mortar and trowel. So practice, timing and tools are critical overview subjects to be discussed here.

Practicing patching old single salmon bricks not in a wall is a cheap and technically challenging exercise. The porosity of salmon bricks demonstrates the importance of controlling suction. If suction is not controlled, bond failure can occur while detailing outside corners. It’s these corners that give rise to the technical challenge. By coating multiple sides of a brick, it helps create focus on multiple surface planes. The initial reshaping step doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to have about 1/8 inch extra material beyond the desired finish. Once Lithomex is well bonded to three sides of a brick, wait for the material to stiffen to thumbprint hard.

DSC_0126Re-troweling the surface will compact the patch to compensate for any slight shrinkage. While using trowels, squares, straight edges, miter rods and improvised tools to shave back and cut away undesired material to the finished profile will create the rough finish. When finishing a masonry unit in a wall, long metal straight edges are great to use as a profiling tool. With the edges exposed over to adjacent units or edges, they act as a guide to bring the finish to proper plane. Typically much of this profiling can be done in the first day of patching; however 12-24 hours later more intricate detailing and carving can be done. Tooth chisels can be used during this time frame to scratch in tooth marks or crandled finishes.

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As more time is allowed to let the patch “firm up” stone masons chisels can be used in a traditional method to give more authentic characteristics. Sanders and rubbing block are also useful for honing the surface to a more polished or pristine finish.

Following these tips and practicing will build upon previous experiences for the craftsman or aspiring novice, facilitating a better rounded approach to brick, stone and terracotta patching.

Other Examples in Use:

 



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Phone: 245-536-6706

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The Mysterious Newport Tower, Restored Using Natural Hydraulic Lime

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The Newport Tower is a peculiarly placed piece of stonework.  It currently resides in Touro Park surrounded by one of the ritziest resorts on the eastern seaboard.  Often called the “Old Mill”, it’s generally accepted to have once been a windmill built in the mid 17th Century. But some believe it was built much earlier either by visiting Vikings, Native Americans, traveling Chinese sailors, or even medieval Scottish Templars led by earl Henry Sinclair during a voyage to New England about a hundred years before Columbus.  Either way, this structure was built to last, being a minimum of 360 some years old. A mortar comparison showed the Newport Tower to be made of lime, sand and gravel.

A team from Contracting Specialists Incorporated recently performed some structural restoration by removing Portland Cement repairs and shoring up the stone with Natural Hydraulic Lime as well as placing a new cap on the top with NHL. These repairs ensure the structure will retain its historically appropriate ingredients while also keeping it structurally sound for generations to come.

Additional Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_Tower_(Rhode_Island)
http://www.unmuseum.org/newporttower.htm
http://www.thenewporttower.com
http://www.neara.org/images/what/Newport__loose_threads.pdf
http://www.newporttower.org

Presented by LimeWorks.us

Phone: 245-536-6706

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A Green Portland Cement Alternative, FAQ Friday with Randy Ruth

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You might ask yourself… How is Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) a green building material? The simple answer would be that it releases about 80% less CO2, pound for pound when compared to Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) during the manufacturing process. But why is this so? Well that requires a bit of understanding on the manufacturing of the two very different products.

Both NHL and OPC are made from limestone, although not necessarily the same kinds of stone and are fired in a kiln. NHL is produced in Vertical shaft kilns, which is like a big chimney, with natural gas or clean coal at a low temperature. While OPC is burned in a rotary kiln fired at nearly 2,500 F. The amount fuel used to maintain such a high temperature is by far greater than the relatively low firing temperature of NHL. Often hazardous waste is used as a fuel, which can emit toxins into the atmosphere. During either process CO2 is driven off into the atmosphere. Even though NHL production drives off less CO2, the benefits don’t stop there.

When the NHL is ready to be mixed as a mortar right out of the bag, it’s hungry. NHL wants the CO2 that was pumped into the atmosphere back all for its self, in its natural process to turn back into a limestone. As different grades of NHL are produced their whiteness and density change. On a scale from lightest to heaviest and from whiteness to grayness, NHL 2 is Light and white while OPC in heavy and grey. Since mortar is mixed by volume in the field, less lime is used per pound to make up the same volume of mortar using OPC.

For more info and to purchase visit us here: limeworks.us/nhlmoreinfopage.php

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