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Preservation of the National Building Museum

Categories: Articles

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, so perhaps the attention recently showered on the National Building Museum’s 130-year-old structure shouldn’t come as a surprise. In November, as a major two-phase roofing repair project at the Museum was drawing to a close, work began on the refurbishment of the first and second floor columns that encircle the Great Hall. Both projects fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) —the Museum’s public sector partner and the agency responsible for maintaining our landmark home. The National Building Museum is one of the highest-profile properties in GSA’s historic buildings portfolio.

Beginning in June 2013, the steep upper roof over the Great Hall was restored and repaired, a process that took some 15 months. Most recently, between June 2015 and January 2017, the low-sloped roof directly above the Museum’s upper level offices was completely replaced. This included removing multiple layers of materials and then repairing the original masonry roof deck, installing contemporary insulation to meet current standards, and installing a new standing-seam, copper roofing system—complete with flashing, gutters, drains, and water tables. Quinn Evans Architects designed the replacement roof, and the work was completed by DJB Contracting, Inc., and general contractor Structural Engineering Group, Inc.

While the exterior project was underway, work began on the repair and restoration of the Great Hall’s perimeter columns. First, the columns and adjacent plaster work were repaired by ornamental plasterwork specialists Hayles & Howe, Inc. Then painting conservator David Olin of Olin Conservation, Inc. restored all the surfaces. The new bronze finish on the columns is striking, having replaced the previous patchwork of repairs. About a quarter of the work in the Great Hall was completed before an official Presidential Inaugural Ball was held in the space on January 20, 2017. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer.