Photos courtesy John Cavalieri, Mara Restoration
Stimulus funds paid for a new roof for Kingston Armory’s drill hall, and restoration cleaning and repairs of its upper stories — about 15 percent of the approximately 68,000 square foot building.
While the other 85 percent waits on the vagaries of funding, Kingston Armory, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is a poster child for the difference skilled restoration specialists can make.
Built in 1923 and designed by local architect Thomas H. Atherton, the Classical Revivalist building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s no monument, though — Kingston Armory is working architecture. It houses three Army units — a service company and two field artillery units. When not pulling military duty, the armory hosts circuses, motorsports events and other shows.
Mara Restoration, Oreland, Pa., was tapped to develop and implement cleaning and repair plans for the building. It needed both, said MARA Project Manager John Cavalieri.
The Mara crew began in late Winter 2009, cutting out failed mortar joints in preparation for Spring 2010, when warmer weather would let them go to work in earnest.
As Spring rolled in, Mara got busy. A cleaning team addressed the dirty masonry in sections about 40 feet wide with masons following, repointing and raking the joints they’d cut out in the winter. The repointing team used a special Spec Mix mortar to replicate the aggregate-heavy original raked historic mortar joints.
They used Sure Klean VanaTrol, a specialized PROSOCO new construction cleaner to expose the aggregate and clarify the mortar joints. VanaTrol is a contraction of the terms “vanadium” — a kind of staining that can occur on certain light-colored bricks — and “control.”
The cleaning crew in front of them used Sure Klean 766 Limestone & Masonry Prewash and Limestone Afterwash to remove the accumulated “black muck” from both limestone and brick. The powerful alkaline prewash is safe for sensitive calcareous stones and clay brick alike, though it’s death on carbon staining.
The mildly acidic afterwash neutralizes any left over alkalinity from the prewash, and adds an additional cleaning-brightening effect of its own.
Though the brick was uniformly dirty, the limestone was a mixed bag. Where overhangs protected the stone, it stayed clean, John said. Where exposed, the stone slowly darkened to the slightly sick shade of gray it bore until cleaned.
The Mara crew applied the cleaners with rollers and paint brushes, scrubbing to get all the nooks and crannies. They rinsed the spent cleaner and dissolved contaminants off the wall with low-pressure water — about 600 psi, John said.
Thick and dark was how the water came off the wall, John said. The crew caught the rinse water and its cargo of emulsified grime in collection areas of rubbery EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) roofing membrane. Then they pumped it into closed containers for transport to a disposal facility.
In addition to repointing and cleaning, the Mara team also replaced a badly cracked limestone crosspiece in windows on the front elevation, craning it up and muscling it into place.
John couldn’t say exactly how much the piece weighed, but at 10 feet long, 8 inches high and 6 inches deep, it was a heavy piece he said. They got it into place without distrubing the windows.
Mara also replaced about 140 smaller 4 x 2 foot — but still heavy — capstones running the length of the upper story, as well as recaulking 22 windows, 8 x 10 feet, including the one with the new limestone crosspiece.
“Mara did a beautiful job,” commented supervising architect Mark Schwager, of the Design Division of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, the Armory’s owner. “From the way they recreated the historic raked mortar joints and exposed the aggregate, to the cleaning, repair and replacement of the deteriorated limestone, Mara set the standard for the continuing restoration of the Armory.”
“We’ve gotten great feedback,” says John. “People say the upper stories look phenomenal. They just want to know when we’re going to do the rest of the building.”
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