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Restoration of the Old Naval Hospital

Update - January 19, 2007

Restoration of the Fence

The BELLArchitects firm, located on Capitol Hill, has been awarded the contract to undertake the design work needed preliminary to the total restoration of the fence surrounding the property at the Old Naval Hospital.

This fence, dating from the original construction of the Old Naval Hospital, and cast by a firm located on the Anacostia River, will be fully analyzed by BELLArchitects, including an anthropological study and a complete laser scanning.

Anyone interested in seeing a complete photographic record and inventory of the fence and go to the April 2000 Report "Inventory of the Exterior Fence" that was done by Ed McManus and Dan Daly.

BELLArchitects is using this inventory as a base for their study in beginning this design phase. They are also using an archeologist to do an historical analysis of the grounds to help determine where and how the fence was located in terms of the topography, openings and the like, since there could have been some significant changes over the years. New laser technology will also be extensively utilized.

It is known that Pennsylvania Avenue was graded after the building was constructed, to a lower level. It is also obvious on the north side of the property, where the fence is encased in concrete, that that was a later addition. There are also questions of whether the current openings in the gate are the same as originally and also what the original gates looked like. It is hoped that the work of the anthropologist and the research entailed will assist in the discovery of evidence and assist in the correct placement of the fence.

In addition, there will be work done to assure that the color is correct for the correct period, and also some work will be undertaken to assure that the restoration design is from the same period as the work already completed on the building itself.

We will also be conducting a campaign to inform the neighbors and community of this undertaking, since it is reported that many pieces of the fence have been kept and preserved by neighbors concerned with them being lost or destroyed. The Office of Property Management now has a warehouse where these pieces can be safely stored.

BELLArchitects are also using a new technology from Optira in Omaha, Nebraska, that uses laser scanning to exactly capture the fence and all its parts for computer manipulation. This scanning was done over the weekend of January 5 and took about three days to complete.

Using newly developed laser equipment, Optira project manager Warren Digman and BELLArchitects principal, David Bell and other staff worked through the weekend with staff to get the full survey completed. The team scanned the entire existing fence and the surrounding area, both inside and outside, getting a very precise reading of the fence, its location, the areas in front and behind the fence as well as a general scan of the neighborhood streets around the Old Naval Hospital.

This information, in a computer, will provide precise measurements for the fence, both in terms of location and in relation to itself, while also providing a stunning tool for displaying design issues and possibilities in three dimensions. Used in conjunction with the April 2000 inventory which counted all the pieces existing and missing along with a complete photographic library, the designers have a full understanding of what the fence is composed of and exactly where those pieces are.

During the first weekend of January, Optira and BELLArchitects were on site with the Leica equipment doing the scanning of the fence. The laser itself costs about $150,000 and is connected to a computer for control and analysis.

Along with the historical research, these studies will enable BELLArchitects to develop a final restoration design in precise detail, which will be the guide for the specialist that does the final restoration of the fence.

This design phase will probably take several months to complete. After that a contract will be awarded, based on the design information, to a qualified cast iron fence restoration firm to begin work. That work is expected to take up to a year to complete, given the huge complexity and the huge number of pieces which are involved.

Most likely the fence will be restored panel by panel, with the restorer taking down one or two panels at a time for restoration. Keeping track of more than that number of elements at one time would make the work almost impossible, given the bookkeeping that would be involved.

We can begin to look for the start of the restoration this summer, but we should be seeing some of the design proposals in the next few months. We will keep you informed.

The photographs were provided by local journalist Maggie Hall and by Optira.

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

Last updated November 12, 2008