The project consisted of specialized repairs to preserve the exteriors of Randolph Hall, Towell Library, and Porter’s Lodge within the historic Cistern Area of the College of Charleston. These included structural remediation in selected areas of each building with associate brick masonry repairs, conservation of decorative stonework, historic lime-based stucco repairs, limewashing of select areas to blend repairs, slate roof repairs, restoration of historic wood windows and shutters, and repairs to historic ornamental gates and fences.
In June 2006, we were commissioned to develop a Conservation Master Plan to assess conditions of these three buildings and surrounding grounds. The resulting two volume Plan, completed in February 2007, contained detailed building descriptions, an evolutionary history, conditions survey results, laboratory analyses of material samples, paint stratigraphies, structural analyses, CAD drawings of the buildings, prioritized repair recommendations, and repair cost estimates. This Plan was initially used to secure project funding and then served to organize the preparation of construction plans and specifications. This Plan was instrumental in helping the College shape a preservation philosophy to guide the work.
Construction work began in August 2009 and was aided throughout by the extensive involvement of an architectural conservator to ensure compliance with the detailed specifications. In depth examination of concealed conditions required additional structural repairs to be made in order to restore the buildings’ integrity without altering the buildings’ forms. Examination of Randolph Hall’s column capitals – among the earliest examples of architectural terra cotta in the country – resulted in a campaign to salvage and repair damaged units and to provide replacement-in-kind unites so that these design features of E.B. White’s 1851 portico addition could be successfully restored.
Stone masonry restoration techniques employed on all of the buildings included anchoring, pinning, patching, injection grouting, and installation of matching Portland brownstone Dutchmen to various decorative members. Examination of roof surfaces led to extensive slate shingle and clay tile ridge cap repairs and replacement of copper flashings. Aided by laboratory analyses of existing historic stucco samples, a stucco conservation and restoration program was implemented. This involved extensive sampling, preparation of mock-ups, test panel applications of cleaning agents and demonstration of surface textures to ensure that repairs would be compatible with historic surfaces. Removal and replacement of inappropriate stuccoes, repairs to stucco cracks and removal of improper surface treatments were all carefully executed. Every wood window sash and shutter on each building underwent a thorough campaign to remove, catalog, repair, weather-strip, reglaze, and restore to operating condition these character defining elements. Ferrous metal repairs involved restoring salvaged railing sections and anchoring loose railing, fence, and gate members followed by preparation and painting of all historic ironwork. In addition to work on the buildings themselves, a carefully designed plan to restore the earlier character of the site was implemented, including an area for native plant species. A major feature in this landscape design was sensitive, safe, and focused lighting to compliment both the architecture and the natural beauty of the mature oak trees.