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Restoration of the Old Naval Hospital

Update - June 17, 2006

Craftsmen Shine at Old Naval Hospital Open House

It was a beautiful, sunny day on Saturday, June 17 for the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital’s open house. But it was the crafts workers who shone the brightest.

Jeffery Larry, of Restoration Concepts, Jim Campbell of Craftsman Iron and Astrid Maas of Worcester Eisenbrandt were the stars of the day as they took neighbors and friends through the work they each have done in their respective area of restoration of the Old Naval Hospital.

Scott Knight and David Bell of BELLArchitects assisted them to provide expertise in the overall planning and implementation of this first phase of the restoration, while Carol Mitten and Peter May, along with Elena Rocha, of the DC Office of Property Management, answered questions and provided background on where the restoration was going and on the timing and objectives of the restoration. Jose Santos, of SJC, Inc., the general contractor also participated.

Jeffery Larry is charged with the restoration of the south portico. He presided for the afternoon on the portico, showing the work completed to date on the balustrades, columns, floor and ceilings. He carefully explained how the restoration of each part was undertaken, through showing the dismantled elements and then explaining how each piece fit back in.

It was amazing to see how much work was accomplished on the original pieces and how few new elements were needed to fill out the whole. He explained the stripping, the repairs, the many choices he needed to make effecting the repairs and how each stage fitted into the next.

He commented after that it was very gratifying for him, as a crafts person, that the neighbors and the community had so much interest in the technicalities and that they were so very concerned about a faithful restoration of the building. He appreciated the extensive positive feedback he got throughout the open house.

Jim Campbell also commented on the intense interest the people had in the metalwork and in a faithful restoration. His work on the cast iron staircase was still in the final assembly stage so that everyone could see a lot of the mechanics of his work. He spent significant time explaining technical aspects of restoring cast iron in general, as well as showing, on the staircase, how the work was implemented.

He also showed how the majority of his work was restoration, with new pieces fabricated only where the old pieces were destroyed or lost. He too was pleased with the high level of interest shown by the neighbors and the community in the restoration.

Jim also spent a good amount of time discussing how the cast iron fence would have to be restored, since everyone he talked to seemed to be concerned about its restoration. He confided that he has wanted to begin working on the fence for over 25 years now and looks forward to the day when that will begin.

Astrid Maas conducted the windows and doors tour. Everyone who took her tour inside and outside the building, was amazed at the high level of technical expertise and precise work that had to be done on the windows and doors. It is the one area that most of us feel we have some expertise, but after listening to Astrid and hearing about the restoration work her group did, we all felt that we had a lot to learn in that area.

She described the complete fabrication of the basement casement windows (since there was nothing left of the originals) and the decision about using thermal windows and building the new shutters for those windows. On the first floor, she described in detail the restoration of the first and second floor windows, down to the need for some refabrication of muttons and saving the individual glass panes which were put back into the same windows, as well as the restoration of the stone hoods over the windows and the stone sills for each window, and showed the upgrading of the window pulls (from cords to chains) and the addition of the clever interior insulated cover for the windows.

She did the same with the doors and their side lites, including the required hardware and how the doors were going to be finished–using the graining technique, in contrast to the painted windows. She showed where the graining color was coming from, just as she did for the research for the color of the windows.

Like the others, she was fully occupied the entire time with people asking questions and explaining the crafts techniques in detail to a very interested audience.

Carol Mitten and Peter May, Director and Deputy Director respectively of the DC Office of Property Management, fielded what seemed like hundreds of questions on the restoration of the building, the restoration of the fence and how the decision for the use of the building will be made. They also participated in informal discussions on the history of the building.

Ms. Mitten commented that it was a real Open House, where those attending felt not only an attachment to the building, but the same sense of responsibility and ownership that we in OPM feel;. Ms. Mitten (and the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital) were pleased by the large turnout for the open house.

Keep watching this space for the next open house and perhaps before that, there may be a demonstration and lecture on the painted technique of graining, a technique which will be used on the doors, from a sixth generation Master Grainer.

This site is sponsored by the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital

Last updated November 15, 2008