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Restoration of the Old Naval Hospital

Update - August 22, 2006

Portico Work Nearing Completion

The last major project before reassembling the portico on the main entrance (E Street) is nearly finished. The Cornice has been completely stripped of paint and repaired with restoration filler as needed and work has begun on priming the entire cornice. Some elements of the cornice had to be replaced because of extensive damage, but generally the original materials are being restored in place.

The front of the entire portico overhang (roof) also had to be elevated as it had sagged several inches from the level of where it is attached to the building. The columns are now being installed with the roof at the correct level after several weeks of very slowly jacking up the front of the portico roof to get it to that level.

The floor also had to be raised since it too had sagged about an inch. This was done earlier to accommodate the installation of the cast iron stairs. The masonry on the columns underneath the floor, holding the floor was redone to the new (original) level. After that work was completed, and the under flooring framing installed and completed, a tinted primer was applied from below, in a color similar to what the final color will be.

Once the roof was raised to the correct height, the contractor was then able to install the columns. These columns were restored separately inside and were also primed in a color similar to what the final color was determined to be. Basically, these wood columns are nearly totally original, since very little deterioration to the original wood took place. There are some patches near the base, but all in all, they were all stripped, sanded, cleaned and some minimal repair, expertly done, was performed and then the entire piece primed.

To prepare for the final assembly of the portico elements, the base and the railings were restored and constructed separately. They were then custom fitted into place with an eye to an installation that would last in terms of weather and ageing. This was a very time-consuming process.

The base was installed (as originally) a bit above the flooring, incorporating multiple elements. To facilitate dryness and movement of air, the middle of the base was left open with screening installed to keep out birds or other animals but to continue to allow good air circulation. That should assure that the base will remain in good shape for many years to come.

The reconstruction of this element was somewhat time-consuming and tedious, in order to assure that the pieces all fit properly and restored the original look. After fastening them all together with screws, filling all holes and cracks, the base was primed in the same, near final, color of paint.

The railing cap was similarly restored and meticulously reconstructed on site. Since this involved some intricate angles and sides, considerable time was taken to assure the correct restoration of this element. Again, there were several pieces to fit together and after they were carefully filled and sanded, it was primed in the same color. The end columns, which serve as the base for the columns, were also constructed during this same work. The interior of those column bases consist of square steel supports to assure there will be no movement of the base over time, with the weight of the roof and columns coming down directly on them. That steel is connected directly to the masonry columns below the floor level.

The final step in completing the construction of the portico is re-placing the balusters. The balusters have been ready for installation for some time. They were entirely disassembled, repaired, filled and sanded and finally painted the same tinted primer.

These balusters are nearly all original, with very little repair done to them. Only a few had to be re-manufactured (as noted in an earlier article) since they were generally in good shape. However, considerable work was required to bring them back to their original shape through cleaning and sanding all earlier paint and materials. Although they appear like new, nearly all are original. It is a tribute to the workmanship involved in restoration.

Sometime in September the work on the portico will be completed and a coat of final paint will be applied. The stairs are nearly completely assembled and painted and the doors, windows and associated stonework are done. That will mark the end of their first phase of the restoration.

FOR YOUR CALENDAR: The Friends are sponsoring an OPEN HOUSE ON OCTOBER 7 FROM 1 PM TO 4 PM. Come see the new restoration and tour the inside of the building.

MALCOLM ROBSON, a sixth generation Grainer, will give a demonstration of graining as applied on the new doors of the Old Naval Hospital.

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

Last updated November 15, 2008