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.
In the heart of what is now Chinatown on the Lower East Side in Manhattan lives the Eldridge Street Synagogue. A very important Jewish Synagogue built in the late 1800s, it was the first synagogue to be built by the Eastern European Jews emigrating from Russia, Romania and Poland. The synagogue flourished for its first 50 years and was revered for its gorgeous vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. But the membership began to dwindle following the great depression and was abandoned in the 1950s. Harsh city life ate away at the building, it became home to flocks of pigeons and other critters. Leaks developed and the stairs became unstable, the remaining members retreated to the basement where they remained for almost half a century.
The rescue effort of the Eldridge Street Synagogue began in the late 70’s when volunteers and the Friends of the Eldridge Street Synagogue initiated efforts that led to an $18.5 million dollar repair campaign. This campaign included repointing work of the facade using Ecologic™ Mortar from LimeWorks.us. Additional repairs to the ceiling, wallpaper, paint and almost every aspect of the central room was restored returning it to its original glory. The final element was set during the fall of 2010, the stained-glass window commissioned by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans is the only 21st century element inside the historic space.
More details of the Eldridge Street Synagogue restoration can be found in the following issue of Traditional Building.
Bricks can hollow back quite profusely in some cases. What are some of the causes?
Don’t forget vermin. Accelerated wetting and drying cycles near the bottom of the brick building cause an increase in the decay of the soft bricks. However, where there is water and calcium rich lime mortar there can be ants and bugs nesting in and behind the wythe. Masonry Bees are found in some parts of the country and will burrow. Sparrows and Starlings will take the calcium bits from lime mortar and like a cuttle bone use the grains for digestion. Some very deep holes in the brickwork are from wood peckers who sense the presence of the bugs and they hone in on certain areas in an attempt to get to them. Here’s one example that may have been caused by a combination of water and animals.
Q: I have an old brownstone house and some of the stone have been falling off, what can I do to prevent further damage and fix the damage that has already occurred?
A: When you have brownstone deterioration or any form of stone deterioration and want it to stop, you have to first identify the root cause. Sometimes it’s as simple as replacing downspouts or replacing roof flashing, to prevent further damage to the stone. Other times it can be a long complicated series of tests and empirical analysis. Depending on the cause of the deterioration of the brownstone, a number of solutions can be applied.
If the stone is only sugaring or sanding with light deterioration, then perhaps doing nothing for a maybe a year and watching the stone for further deterioration is sufficient. However, if the stone is in much worse shape with possibly a ¼ inch or more of stone loss, then some could be some very serious problems with the integrity of the stone.
Brownstone as with many different types of sandstone has bedding planes. These bedding planes in the stone tend to detach from one and other depending on how the stone was laid in the wall. Imagine a layered cake as the stone, with each layer on top of one and other. If the stone cake is put on its side there is a greater chance that moisture can get between the layers and cause delimitation and or exfoliation. This being a common problem associated with sandstone, a more detailed resource for classifying the type of stone loss you may have can be found here.
It is always recommended that when fixing damage to stone that a qualified professional be brought out to see what the damage is and come up with an appropriate course of action. There are many different ways to approach fixing a stone like whether consolidation is appropriate is an appropriate first step or not. In my eyes, it is always best to honor the original detail of the stone and artisan who created it by only fixing what is broken. When patching stonework an important approach is to make sure that appropriate sympathetic patching materials are used. (Lithomex) The use of impermeable materials can cause further deterioration of the stone by trapping moisture. This will result in a faulty patch that can accelerate deterioration to the adjacent stone.
We got an email back in 2011 with some amazing photos of Ian Cramb. These photos are from 1958 in Iona, Scotland. Ian was working on the cloisters of Iona Abbey at the time. Iona is a small island off the west coast of Scotland near Oban. These photos came from another Ian, Ian Taylor who spent a month living in Iona as a student in 1958 where he captured these photos during his stay on the island.
Also, in the recording below Ian talks about the apron he is wearing in the photo. He only wore that apron during his time in Iona and every morning it was blessed before he began the day’s work at the Abbey.