Yes, We Can Save The Frank Furness 19th Street Baptist Church

by Sean Maxwell 2012

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This beautiful church was designed by Frank Furness and is located at the corner of 19th and Titan in South Philadelphia.  It almost went the way of many Furness structures; due to neglect and time the church leadership is under pressure to begin repairs or plan for it to be demolished due to unsafe conditions sited by the License and Inspections Department of the city. Under the leadership of Reverend Vincent J. Smith and in partnership with the Greater Philadelphia Preservation Alliance and some volunteers, stabilization efforts have finally begun.

As the morning sun crept over the skyline on the last Saturday of April, Randy Ruth, mason and the laboratory technician from  LimeWorks.us volunteered to lead a workshop with a team of a few other volunteers to complete some small but crucial repairs on the north facing wall of the 19th Street Baptist Church.

The church has been in need of serious repairs for a number of years as observed and documented in a 2000 University of Pennsylvania report, Thesis by Molly Anne Sheehan, which show that the conditions of the church and the exterior Serpentine Stonework have continued to deteriorate steadily.

Under Randy’s supervision the team of volunteers used a lime mortar donated by LimeWorks.us for doing some in-kind repairs to stabilize the failing back-up walls behind the Serpentine stone. This lime and sand mortar reflects what would have been used originally when the church was constructed in the late 1800s. Ecologic® Mortar contains NO harmful Portland Cement and allows the building to breathe and process water as it did originally.  At some point in time, a hard and brittle Portland Cement stucco was placed over a significant part of the building, trapping moisture and leading to further deterioration of the soft, sedimentary serpentine stone and contributing to mold issues that the church basement still has to deal with today.

This was the first step in saving the most colorful building ever designed by Furness… A true master plan is needed for the next step in partnership with strong fundraising efforts to truly bring this sacred place back to its original glory.

Other stories about the 19th Street Baptist Church…

HiddenCityPhila.org

Plan Philly

Gallery photos  ©SeanKmaxweLL.com

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Understanding Mineral Paints and Stains for Masonry Applications

Ecologic™ Silicate mineral paints are mineral paints made using potassium silicate, also known as waterglass. They are combined with inorganic, alkaline-resistant pigments and these paints have zero VOC offgassing.

Silicate Mineral paints were patented in Germany during the late 19th century. Examples can now be found around the world in masonry conservation and alterations as well as new construction. This long track record has proven these paints and stains are durable, long lasting and low maintenance applications for all types of masonry.

Mineral paints and stains chemically bond to all forms of masonry substrates such as brick, stone, mortar, stucco and cement. Unlike latex paints, they are non film-forming, creating a permanent bond that works in harmony with the masonry. Ecologic™ Potassium Silicate Paint is a thick bodied paint.

Ecologic™ Colorwash Stain however is a translucent potassium silicate stain that allows the masonry texture to come through the finish. Both can be brushed, rolled or sprayed on. For artistic expressions or when feathering colors with Ecologic™ Colorwash Stain a sponge may be appropriate for a unique finish.  For long lasting, breathable applications Ecologic™ Potassium Silicate Paint is an exceptional choice, while Ecologic™ Colorwash Stain may be more appropriate for changing previous masonry repairs where there are mismatched colors.

Both are available in 10 standard colors and can be custom ordered.

For more information about mineral paints and stains as featured in This Old House Magazine, or to learn about our line of  lime paints please visit our website or call 215.536.6706.

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“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.

 

 

 

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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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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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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

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Restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York City with Ecologic™ Mortar

Eldridge Street Synagogue
Eldridge Street Synagogue


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.

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Green Construction in Today’s Built Environment – FAQ by Randy Ruth

by Randy Ruth

When people talk about “green” construction, I often wonder what the environmental benefit of the construction is. Is it new construction? If so what is the environmental impact? I would hope that a perfectly good existing building wasn’t torn down to make way for supposed progress.

It is my belief that the greenest building is the one that is already standing and most likely played a role in a community’s development. It could be an old department store, manufacturing warehouse or barn. Sometimes plans call for only the façade of a building to be saved which helps keep the architectural integrity of a community intact. This can be a positive compromise because the more useful modernized building can be built and yet some historic fabric is retained to tell the story and retain the flavor of what the building was in its local context.

In the end, as long as something is retained for adaptive reuse, whether it is for aesthetics or the entire structure, there is a measure of success in reducing a “green” construction project’s carbon footprint.

In most instances, a building that has been saved from the wrecking ball is old. What does old really mean? Well that’s pretty subjective but I would like to think of old in the context of US building history as being pre 1930, or roughly 80 years and older. When an old building is going to be adaptively reused one way or another then appropriate materials should be used to fix what is broken with compatible repair materials. Using in-kind repairs will further promote the legacy and overall usefulness of a building for years to come while lowering its impact on the environment.

Old buildings are usually very strong and often made of brick and stone that has proven to stand the test of time. However it’s the mortar that binds those materials together and meant to be sacrificial. Mortar should fail first not irreplaceable historic masonry units. The embodied energy to replace a masonry unit is much greater than the mortar. Therefore, it is imperative that a suitable replacement mortar be used to mend what is failing and the mortar be weaker and slightly more permeable than the surrounding masonry units.

In the case of masonry mortar, lime is typically the binder in these old buildings and should be regarded as key to the dynamic that has allowed the building to be in service so long. Often the original mortar is still in place, proving its superiority and therefore should be replaced in-kind. The use of modern day Portland cement based mortars, which are stronger and denser when placed over the top of lime based mortars, are less sympathetic to the historic masonry and can trap moisture causing further damage to the historic fabric. The historic masonry units and adjacent historic elements can best be kept in conservation with the use of the right lime mortar. The correct Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) mortars when used where they are appropriate can become a compatible repair materials that is sympathetic  to the working dynamics of an historic masonry building. Secondly, NHL mortars remain reversible without damage to the building unlike the alternative which is the too over-used hard, brittle and dense Portland cement based mortars which are known to cause irreversible damage in conjunction with historic masonry fabric.

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Burning Lime, The Traditional Way

This is an incredible video that really shows the difficulties of burning limestone the old way. Stacking wood, limestone and coal in an old kiln these men go through the process using traditional methods to turn regular limestone into caustic burnt lime.

Uploaded on Nov 27, 2010

This is from the Edwardian Farm series – how to make 10 tons of lime mortar in a massive kiln using layers of limestone and coal burnt for days!

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A Message from Ian Cramb, a younger man…

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.

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Get Ian Cramb’s book here: The Stonemason’s Gospel

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