Alumni efforts will help return campus's Goldwin Smith Bench

Two Cornell symbols are pictured on the Arts Quad about 1915 -- Andrew Dickson White and the Goldwin Smith Bench. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections/Carl A. Kroch Library

By Paul Cody

June 4, 1998

On May 9, 1871, an item appeared in the Ithaca Daily Journal: "A fine stone seat has been placed under the pine near the south edge of the campus. It is another gift from Goldwin Smith. About six persons can be accommodated comfortably with seats. The back is carved on the front sides in the early English style, with three panels. The central panel contains this inscription: 'Above All Nations Is Humanity.' The workmanship reflects much credit on the skill of Messrs. Colquhoun & Kirk, who have had the work in charge. The stone was quarried from Mr. Cornell's quarry. The cost is about two hundred and seventy-five dollars."

"As the quote above indicates," said Associate Professor Michael A. Tomlan, director of Cornell's graduate program in historic preservation in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, "the Goldwin Smith Bench was placed on the Cornell campus in 1871. From under 'the pine at the south edge of the campus,' it was moved near the north entrance of Stimson Hall by the early 20th century, and to the south of the portico of Goldwin Smith Hall a few years later. In spring 1988, however, the back was broken, and the bench collapsed. The pieces were removed from the Arts Quad to the rear of Sibley Hall where, under the care of the graduate program in historic preservation planning, an attempt was launched to reinstall it. A physical examination indicated that a number of pieces had fractured so badly that any attempt to repair it would be fruitless."

Now efforts are under way to reproduce the bench and bring it back to the Cornell campus.

"The stone is the well-known Llenroc," Tomlan said, "the local schist so common in the area. Hence, the intent was always to have the Goldwin Smith Bench reproduced as exactly as possible, in size, proportion and detail, using the original as a template for the replacement bench. After several attempts to interest the administration in the idea of including the sculpture in fund-raising efforts, in early 1989 an alumnus, Michael C. Nolan, Class of '77, became involved in making the restoration and reinstallation a class gift. To Nolan and his classmates goes much of the credit for bringing this minor landmark back to the Arts Quad. Jeffrey Lallas, project manager in Cornell's maintenance management department, also remained steadfast in coordinating the effort on behalf of the university."

The entire cost of the project will exceed $40,000.

"One of the best suppliers and fabricators of special stonework in the region," Tomlan said, "Ottavino Stone of Ozone Park, Queens, has the contract to provide the duplicate work. At the university, master mason Pete Capalongo will prepare the new base, where the bench last sat, just south of the principal portico of Goldwin Smith Hall. By late August, after over a decade's absence, the quote 'Above All Nations Is Humanity' will once again be seen by all who pass by."

"We're very excited that the project is coming to fruition," said Nolan. "Replacing this bench is a small but crucial way the university needs to be faithful to its history. The university could have replaced this with a much cheaper concrete or wooden bench, but that would have been historically, aesthetically and ethically incorrect. That would be like having McGraw Tower without the chimes or the Arts Quad without the statues of Ezra Cornell and A.D. White, or seeing Tower Road without its trees."

Repairing the Whitney's Stone Curtain Wall
Architecture Magazine
September 1997
Though only 30 years old, the Whitney Museum of American Art on New York City’s Upper East Side was recently in danger of losing stone panels from its five story exterior. During preparations for an expansion and renovation early last year, the museum discovered that the steel anchors that held the granite cladding to Marcel Breuer’s  cantilevered edifice had rusted through and were in danger of failing.

With its expansion already in  progress, the museum decided to correct the curtain wall deficiencies with a fast-track repair and cleaning job. Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates developed plans for reanchoring of the stones and Ozone Park, New York-based conservator A. Ottavino Corporation is now executing the project

“It’s a fairly simple restoration,” maintains architect Diane Kaese.  “The problem leads back to the initial anchorage and the failures of that system.” Steel bolts used in conjunction with stainless steel and zinc-coated dowels caused a galvanic action between the zinc and the steel.  The rust that resulted pushed the steel dowels outward, loosening the stone cladding. This anchoring system was also deemed to have been inadequately designed in general, with “the wrong pieces in the wrong places,” Kaese says.

Wiss, Janney Elstner designed a new stainless steel anchoring system for the stones Because of its experience with removing and reinstalling stonework, Ottavino was brought in as the contractor to execute the work. “They bring a level of care and understanding that you don’t typically get with contractors,” Kaese says.  “They understand the material itself, what it can take and what it can’t, and how to repair the stone without damaging it.

Ottavino removed all the stone panels and the loose anchors embedded in each as well as those attached to the wall.  Removing the panels proved a challenge, since some weighed up to 3,000 pounds.  A winch at the top of the scaffolding helped ease each tablet down to the ground, and a special hydraulic lift that the contractor created for this job helped remove the stones from beneath the cantilevers.

The smaller stones were taken to Ottavino’s shop, while the larger ones were worked on on-site.  “Once we got the panels down, it was a matter of examining each; repairing them, if necessary; removing the existing caulking and mortar; cleaning the stone; and then cutting new anchor holes,” Ottavino President Mohamed Elkordy explains “all without affecting the face of the stone.”

Fortunately, few of the granite panels were damaged, but all certainly had to be cleaned.  For this, the conservator used a mild commercial cleaning agent for the conservation work.  As the panels are finished, they will be sent back to the Whitney for reattachment to the façade.  “The logistics of a project of this scale are one of the challenges of this job,” asserts Elkordy. “Coordination between the field work and the shop work is critical, as is handling that quantity of stone in a systematic and efficient way.”

The job will be finished this fall, and Elkordy applauds the Whitney Museum’s willingness to endure a year of complex, unsightly scaffolding shrouding its building.  “The museum is doing this the right way,” he says.  “They’re getting to the heart of the problem rather than just shooting bolts through the stones to anchor them to the wall.”

The Firemen’s Memorial
By: Jan Hird Pokorny, Architects and Planners
Building Stone Magazine
May  6, 1992

The Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street and Riverside Drive was originally designed by architect Harold VenBuren Magonigle. The monument is in the form of a votive tablet, 25 feet long, 20 feet high, and 8 feet deep.  The tablet, or cenotaph, rests on a high foundation, flanked by two marble groups.

At the end of the Memorial cenotaph are two flights of steps leading down to a paved terrace from which a broad flight of steps and a stepped ramp descend to Riverside Drive.  Flanking the upper steps and retaining the bank at either side are two granite walls surmounted by marble balustrades.  At the foot of the stepped ramp at Riverside Drive are two granite plinths which originally received tall bronze lampposts.

A celebration – attended by 5,000 firemen and their families – marked the completion of the restoration. It is considered to be one of the most important monuments in New York City because it represents a living monument – a monument to the firemen who continue to serve the city as they did since its inception. 

Existing Conditions prior to reconstruction: Masonry of the cenotaph and buttress wall balustrades is fabricated of a pink Tennessee limestone, also known as Knoxville marble.  The foundations of the cenotaph and buttress walls, as well as steps, copings, and ramp nosings are fabricated of a pegmatitic granite from Pompton, New Jersey.  The masonry of the cenotaph of the Firemen’s Memorial had undergone significant damage due to separation of the limestone of ashlar facing from brick wall masonry through open coping joints and separation appears to have been caused by ice lenses between ashlar and backup masonry.  The granite masonry of the cenotaph and buttress wall foundation was in generally good condition and had not seriously shifted.  The front stones of the fountain basin and a few stones of the top granite course of the cenotaph foundation had been displaced. The granite terrace had slipped and subsided seriously along the western edge of the terrace.

Program for Reconstruction:  All marble stonework of the cenotaph and buttress walls were removed, labeled, stored, cleaned, repaired and re-erected with new stainless steel cramp system to attach stone to backup masonry.  Repair of damaged ashlar masonry included seven types of repair.

The Cenotaph buttress wall stonework was pointed with an appropriate lime cement pointing mortar after being reset. The granite masonry of the cenotaph and buttress wall bases was in excellent condition, exhibiting little shifting or settlement.  The shifted top stones were reset.  Voids between ashlar and backup masonry were grouted.  The front stone sof the fountain basin which have shifted outward were removed, labeled, stored, cleaned and reset.  The existing granite benches were removed, repaired and reset. New insets of pink Tennessee marble benches were installed on the terrace along the west edge. The marble benches match the pedestal and seat profiles of originals.

Scope of Work included: (a) Rake all joints and repair or replace and reset as necessary granite stones in the base of the buttress walls (north and south), the base of the cenotaph, the fountain basin and the fountain basin  and the fountain basin steops (b) Repair or replace as necessary granite stones in the base of the buttress walls (north and south), the base of the cenotaph, the fountain basin and the fountain basin steps. (c) Repair or replace as necessary and reset all granite copin stones at the terrace border, the buttress walls of the grand steps and at the edge of the stepped ramp.  Reset granite plinths at base of stepped ramp edge copings.  (d) Repair or replace as required and reset all marble stonework in the balustrades (north and south)  and in the cenotaph. (e) Repair and reset as required marble statuary. (f) Point all masonry joists of reconstructed stonework. (g) Clean all stonework of graffiti, paint soiling and staining. Poultice as necessary to remove metal and graffiti stains. (h) Fabricate and install six new marble benches.  (i) Install new marble infill, repair and reinstall four existing granite benches. 


Replacement Alternative
- A guide to specifying original materials and new substitute
By Kate Burns Ottavino
November 1991

Over the past two decades, a variety of alternatives have been developed that substitute for a broad range of historical materials, including terra-cotta, marble, and cast iron. While new materials may not match the existing ones exactly, they frequently allow a more weather tight solution, or provide a less expensive and more durable alternative to the original.  During the 1960s, for example, when new terra-cotta cladding was intermittently replaced with granite or limestone - the very materials they had been designed to imitate.  Preservationists, however, still consider the ideal restoration to be process that includes a historic building's original materials and methods of construction.  Knowing when to specify substitute materials and when to reproduce the original requires an examination of the original period, conditions, and methods of fabrication

Researching original materials
To determine a course of action for replacing historic materials, architects should begin by reviewing the "Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings: prepared by the National Park Service.  As the guideline point out, not all of the materials in a building maybe equal historic significance.  For example, an unusual application or treatment of one material may be essential to an understanding of local history at the time of the buildings construction, such as the fire sprinklers that were added to cast iron columns and frames in Baltimore after the Great Fire of 1904.

Other significant elements may indicate technological developments, such as milled lumber or machine-made nails, or unique craftsmanship, such as wood framing and its method of joinery.  Still other materials may be considered integral to the design of a building, such as glass panels in an international style building or stained glass in religious structure.

National Park service Guidelines encourage repairing damaged, historically significant architectural features with the same material as the original element.  But this approach may not always be technically or economically feasible.  As a result, historic architectural elements are frequently replaced with contemporary materials, and local preservation commissions are becoming more receptive to their use.  Architects should keep in mind, however, that substitute materials should be applied on a limited basis- only when they match the appearance and general properties of the historic material and will not damage the surrounding original fabric. Fortunately, building product manufacturers now offer numerous materials from which to choose.  Popular replacement materials include glass-fiber-reinforced plastic (GFRP) for cornices, glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC), for ashlar blocks, glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum (GFRG) for plaster modelings, and precast concrete for coping stones. Other replacement products include synthetic coatings, consolidants, epoxies, and sheet metal.

Such Substitute replacement materials have progressed from stop-gap measures to become architectural materials in their own right.  For example, during the 1970s, GFRP and epoxies were borrowed by architectural conservators from the marine industry in their early attempts at preserving wooden structures. Epoxies are now widely used to repair historic windows, and GFRP replaces masonry cornices and deteriorated cast iron in all types of buildings.  The building industry has developed performance standards and use specific applications for these materials, transforming what were once fledgling alternatives chosen for economy into state-of-the-art engineered products.

Original Versus substitute materials
To determine the availability of an original material, architects should first identify the compositions of the historic element and locate the source of its manufacture. Most local trades people and vendors are familiar with indigenous building materials and can provide the necessary information. Manufacturers' associations employ technical specialists who can recommend historical literature on a particular material, as well as experts who can provide data on its chemical and physical properties.  For architects, this information can help them to locate a current source of the material and to develop guidelines for selecting and specifying replacements.

Having located a source for the original material, architects must compare the cost of producing it with the cost of a substitute.  The manufacture of stone carvings and terra-cotta, for example, is on the rise because of the increased demand for these crafted materials in restoration projects.  The cost, however, may still be prohibitive; hand-carving stone and hand molding terra-cotta are as labor intensive today as they were 100 years ago. Although the stone industry no uses computerized planning machine, and terra-manufacturers take advantage of extruded clay and ram-pressed products, these methods are usually reserved for large scale reproduction of identical pieces. In both cases, manufacturing lead time may exceed one year because of the customized nature of production.

An architect also needs to consider the number of elements that need to be replaced.  If a project requires only a few replacements, every effort should be made to reproduce the material in kind to ensure physical and chemical compatibility, thermal properties, and visual compatibility, such as color, reflectance, and weathering characteristics.  But if a project calls for a large scale replacement of elements, perhaps because of an inherent problem in the original design and construction of the building, then a more economical substitute may be considered.

Often GFRP, GFRC, and precast-concrete replacements, for example, are more cost-effective if manufactured on a large scale. During the early stages of production, architects should visit the manufacturing plant to review testing procedures and mock-ups to ensure consistent and timely production.

Knowledge of original construction methods is also helpful. An original material that has load bearing properties is an integral to the structural system of building should be replaced with a material having at least the same compressive strength. On the other hand, a historic material such as stone may have been applied in both load-bearing (ashlar blocks, for example) and non-load-bearing (suspended cornices) capacities; thus replacing it with materials of identical strength in all locations on the face is unnecessary.  For non-load-bearing masonry applications, for example, materials such as GFRP or GFRC may be substituted.  Where blocks are load-bearing, alternative materials such as precast concrete may be specified. In large-scale projects, the installation costs of heavy masonry materials may exceed those of lightweight non-load bearing substitutes.  For example, in restoring the 1916 Equitable Building in New York City, the original terra-cotta cornice was replaced by fiberglass from swing scaffolding, and the GFRP could be stored on the roof.

In selecting replacement materials, architects should also consider the type of decay at work on the building. On one hand, a delicate material such as marble, composed of calcium carbonate, is subject to sulfate attack from acid rain and other atmospheric pollution and often requires a substitute material that will not be as vulnerable to dissolution. On the other hand, durability may not be the main reason for selecting a substitute material visual consistency between the old and new is a primary project wide consideration. For example, precast concrete, although susceptible to acid rain, is an appropriate substitute for marble because it most closely matches marble's appearance. Whenever there is a preponderance of on historic material - such as rows of balusters or ashlar blocks in a wall - the need for visual compatibility, rain or shine, becomes a primary consideration in selecting substitute materials.  A porous material, such as precast concrete, appears dark when wet, in contrast to glazed terra-cotta, which sheds water and tends to retain its shading when wet. 

The selection of replacement materials must also take into account building code requirements.  Fire codes, for example, vary according to local jurisdictions and may have different criteria for materials with a high rate of flame spread, such as GFRP.  And while the fire resistance of polyester resins, for example, can be boosted with oxides and paraffin, the application of lacquer coating may be required to prevent the resin from yellowing with exposure to ultraviolet light.

Materials and Maintenance
The maintenance of a substitute material varies with its composition, exposure, and detailing.  Over the past two decades, the building industry has gained experience in determining the causes of some material failures, such as delamination of fiberglass due to wicking of water through exposed strands and freeze-thaw-cycle damage in precast concrete caused by insufficient air entrainment. Manufacturers have also sought to control product failures through quality-control programs that mandate visual inspections at the plant as well as laboratory testing for compliance with physical and chemical parameters. But the long-term maintenance of these new building products is just beginning to be addressed. Manufacturers have created products to preserve contemporary building materials, such as coatings for GFRC, that are not maintenance-free. Coatings and consolidations require reapplication over varying periods of time, depending upon their composition, because they disintegrate or chemically react with the atmosphere.

The preservation projects shown on these pages-which were undertaken by Ehrenkrantz and Eckstut Architects and Stonehill and Taylor Architects (Manhatten Savings Bank)-were completed over the past seven years.  They incorporate examples of typical replacement materials and provide useful information regarding the weathering characteristics of such substitute materials.  The seven-year-old acrylic-based coating on Temple Rodef Shalom's decorative terra-cotta buttress have successfully kept out rainwater. The two-year old dome on the Manhattan Savings Bank has prevented water leakage, and its fiberglass-clad windows continue to resist wind  and water.  For architects involved in the preservation, such case studies are valuable tools when considering replacement materials for future projects.  Demonstrating how building materials weather and decay, they not only point to new ways of preserving and maintaining historic structures, but offer clues to designing weathertight and durable new buldings.


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