Link to Home Page

Restoration of the Old Naval Hospital

Update - July 24, 2006

Restoration of Cast Iron Stairs Nearing Completion

The cast iron stairs of the south portico are now being reconstructed on site at the Old Naval Hospital. Mr. Jim Campbell of Craftsman Iron in the District of Columbia and his able crew are in the process of putting the final touches on the restoration of the stairs.

In late spring, the unrestored stairs were carefully dismantled, catalogued and taken to the shop for full restoration. In the shop, the stairs were carefully sand-blasted to remove old paint and rust, parts that were broken or destroyed were repaired and replaced and the newly unfinished parts were primed. The first of these were shown at the Open House in July.

The disassembly was a time consuming and tedious work, since the stairs had be carefully handled to do no more damage to it, while each piece had to be catalogued to insure that upon reassembly, all the parts would go back to where they had been originally. This was particularly important since over the more than one hundred years, there had been some settling as well as other repairs and not all pieces were now interchangeable.

In preparation for reassembly, the top supporting iron had to be installed correctly, the masonry had to be correctly applied and repaired and the correct, precise elevations of each element had to be achieved. These first steps were done in a temporary fashion so that the cast iron parts could be installed. That assembly started with the frame for the stairs on each side and the centers. This was a complex job since there was much fitting to be done given the long time these pieces had been together and the minute changes in fitting that had taken place.

This work was accomplished through much trial and error, requiring several adjustments as the work was proceeding - putting in bolts, placing the risers, readjusting the bolts and realigning the risers. Constant vigilance in levels and attitudes of the risers assured that the risers were placed properly, as originally, on the stringers.

The final primed staircase was then completed in place. Much work remained. This stage allowed the workers to exactly determine the needed height of the top cross beam, since that beam also was critical to the portico floor level. It was found that the beam was a bit under an inch too low.

As a result, the entire portico was raised to insure that the beam was in the correct place. This placement was critical since it dictated the height of the first step down from the portico, which needed to be the same as the other steps.

This readjustment also then permitted the precise placement of the masonry holding in place, the beam and the stair at the top of the staircase, underneath. And that in turn dictated the final masonry work for the stone steps at the bottom.

Once that work is completed, the stair will be permanently installed. That work is ongoing.

Then the stone steps, forming the first two steps up to the portico, will be reinstalled, the electric wiring will be brought to the lamp pedestals and the restored lampposts will be re-placed at the bottom of the stairs and the new lamps installed. At the same time the stair railings will be placed and the entire cast iron stair (and assoicated cast iron work) undercoated and then painted the same color as the windows.

This final work will be completed in the next few weeks.

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

Last updated November 15, 2008