Ralph Adams Cram, pre-eminent of the "Collegiate Gothic" architects, designed the True-Lucas Building in Washington, D.C. On the campus of St. Albans School, a boys' school on the close (grounds) of the Washington National Cathedral, this historic building has undergone two major renovations and additions since its completion in 1929-one in the 1950s and one in the mid-1990s.
The second rehabilitation, designed by Chatelain Architects of Washington, D.C., included a 40,000-square-foot renovation and a 10,000-square-foot addition to the building. The Science Wing transformed the lackluster facade of the 1950s addition into a striking, inspirational edifice.
Through careful research, the firm was able to design a sympathetic yet powerful solution that satisfied several difficult preconditions. First, the school had to remain functioning during construction. Second, the school's board of trustees mandated that the quality of the project be such that the building would be useful for another 70 years with state-of-the-art classroom technologies. Third, the renovation and addition had to retain the Collegiate Gothic style appropriate to the overall integrity of the Washington Cathedral campus.
The project's stonemasonry contractor, Pagliaro Brothers Stone Co. of Upper Marlboro, Md., took great care during the demolition of the rear stone facade to preserve the original individual stones so that they could be reused in the new façade. The building's former appearance was changed to what the design architect, Leon Chatelain III, calls a "noble façade": a strong central bay of Gothic windows and a five-story tower, its soaring perpendicular character a hallmark of Gothic architecture.
St. Albans' original fieldstone from the Stoneyhurst quarries in suburban Maryland, was predominantly brown in color, but by the mid-1990s, the quarried stone was predominantly gray. Competition with other projects for the brown stone in stock was particularly fierce at the time so they got as much as they could and came up with a blend of brown, gray, and the original stone. The blend creates a seamless web between the old and new wings of the building.
New, larger windows bring much more sunlight into the building. Window surrounds, sills, and heads, as well as belt courses, coping, and tower elements, are of Indiana limestone. To keep costs down, St. Albans canceled plans for Vincent Palumbo, the National Cathedral's renowned master stonemason, to carve limestone gargoyles.
Classrooms were added, and the existing building was renovated to include art and music studios, new office suites for administrative staff, and a computer classroom.
The $6,250,000 project went through an extremely intense design approval process. Beginning with the school's building committee, the project then was reviewed and approved by the St. Albans board of trustees, the Washington National Cathedral building committee, the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board, and the District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment. Three different neighborhood associations also actively took part in the process. Chatelain Architects coordinated community public hearings for historical preservation and zoning approvals.
The meticulous planning and execution has paid off. Well-received by the public, as well as faculty, students, and parishioners, the True-Lucas Building also has won acclaim from the Washington, D.C.-based chapter of the American Institute of Architects-an Honor Award for the Use of Historic Resources.