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Best Overall: Milwaukee City Hall Restoration, Milwaukee
Built in 1897, the Flemish Renaissance-style Milwaukee City Hall has endured the hardships of time and the brutal Upper Midwest weather. When J.P. Cullen's craftsmen restored City Hall to its original glory, they also showcased masonry as an art form.
MASONRY CONSTRUCTION editors noted the project's scope, grandeur, and challenges in selecting this as the 2009 MC Project of the Year.
The exterior restoration included 400,000 square feet of terra cotta and sandstone repair, replacement, and preservation, in addition to fixing or replacing hundreds of thousands of deteriorating bricks. Pieces of terra cotta had begun falling onto the sidewalks and streets below, so Cullen's first task was to completely net the building for the safety of cars and pedestrians below.
Before repairing and restoring more than 13,000 pieces of terra cotta, masons completed special onsite training. While carefully preserving existing pieces, the team anchored and installed new terra cotta sculptures and reliefs, recreated to identically match the originals. They referred to historic photographs when replacing elements that had been missing for decades. Specially formulated mortar helped restore the original terra cotta's appearance.
After a thorough chemical cleaning, masons replaced severely deteriorated sandstone by inserting Dutchman wedges to hide faults in badly made joints, and match the color, texture, and profile of the original design. They finished by re-tooling heavily eroded areas to recreate the sandstone's crisp lines.
The project team developed an innovative method of tuckpointing the wall joints, which were half the standard width. They used an electric Fein tool, commonly used on caulking, to remove mortar more quickly. Masons also met the challenge of installing flashing behind the masonry materials to minimize future water damage and maintain City Hall's historic appearance.