This year marks the beginning of the centennial observance of World War I, 1914-1918. The heart of that observance stands in the heartland — at Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial, a registered National Historic Landmark and home of the officially designated World War I museum of the United States.
So to call a project to clean and restore such a monument a great undertaking is… greatly understated. And it’s what an army of designers and contractors undertook recently in a $1.35 million masonry restoration project to clean, seal and waterproof the mostly limestone exterior of the complex.
If you haven’t ever visited, put the Liberty Memorial on your list the next time you’re in Kansas City. Its stunning aesthetics have been part of the town’s cityscape since its dedication by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.
The monument, designed in an Egyptian Revival architectural style on 47 acres, includes a 217-foot-tall tower, two Assyrian sphinxes, the 488-foot-by-48-foot Great Frieze on the North Wall, the Dedication Wall and many more elements constructed of limestone.
Under a design team led by Gould Evans and in conjunction with General Contractor JE Dunn Construction, two Kansas City firms — Structural Engineering Associates and Susan Richards Johnson & Associates — worked in collaboration to complete the limestone restoration. That included cleaning and sealing of the main entry, tower, General’s Wall and fountains, south entry courtyard, sphinxes, and the Great Frieze on the North Wall.
A variety of sources and types of limestones comprising the massive structure complicated the scope of the project. There was limestone old and new, buff and variegated, from different sections of quarries, varying grades, and so on. But it wasn’t too much for PROSOCO’s EnviroKlean ReKlaim (formerly known as BioKlean), ReVive (formerly known as BioWash), OH100 Consolidation Treatment, SureKlean Weather Seal Natural Stone Treatment and more.
Kirk Matchell, restoration project manager and associate at Structural Engineering Associates, said that PROSOCO products were specified almost exclusively in the publicly bid restoration job.
“We had worked with PROSOCO’s products for many many years,” Matchell said. “(The products) did wonderfully. They took care of all of the stain issues, and we (applied) a really good water repellent. It’s holding its color, and it’s done what we’ve asked for it to do.”
For Julie Garvey, project designer of Susan Richards Johnson & Associates, familiarity with PROSOCO’s cleaning and protective treatments played a crucial role in those products getting into the specs.
Mike Dickey of Dickey Sales LLC, a manufacturer’s sales rep for PROSOCO, had volunteered to perform a test sample for the firm, “so that we could determine the efficacy of the product… and make sure that no damage or detriment would be seen with the product on the stone in the long term,” Garvey said.
The test, conducted a full year before construction began, tested 10-year-old Indiana limestone that had been experiencing severe discoloration due to mildew and staining. On the right-hand side of the sample (pictured), the control was power-washed with warm water. The left side of the sample was cleaned with ReKlaim, followed by an application of EnviroKlean Revive (formerly known as BioWash). On the lower half of the left side, a consolidant (OH100) and PROSOCO’s SureKlean Limestone & Masonry Afterwash was applied to demonstrate that “the product would not discolor or darken the stone in any way.” Garvey and others from the firm, including Project Architect Angie Gaebler, watched the three sections as they were left exposed to the elements for a full year.
A year later, Garvey said they “saw significant improvement in the overall appearance of the stone, it was not discolored, and the area was remaining clean longer. There were no detrimental effects of the water repellent or cleaning treatments, and we approved those for the Liberty Memorial.”
Construction started in 2012 and was completed late last year, but the work of everyone involved didn’t go unnoticed. The restoration of the memorial’s Wall of Dedication earned a 2012 Preservation Award in the conservation category from Historic Kansas City, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s buildings of “historical, cultural or architectural significance.” This wall commemorates the five allied leaders — Lt. Gen. Baron Jacques of Belgium; Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain; Gen. Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; and Gen. John Pershing of the U.S. — who attended the memorial’s groundbreaking ceremony in 1921.
In addition, the overall masonry repairs of the memorial garnered an award of merit from the International Concrete Repair Institute in the historic category.
But it didn’t take international awards for the project’s architects to take pride in the finished product. “It was a labor of love,” Garvey of Susan Richards Johnson & Associates said. “We’re truly honored to have been part of such a significant historic property here in town.”