Category: Historic Restoration
Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
Size: 20,600 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: 6,000 bricks, 500 CMU, and used the existing terra cotta coping.
Submitted by: Eyerman.Csala.Hapeman & Handman Architects

Project Description

Recent scholarship has uncovered documentation indicating that the second building of Wilkes-Barre's First Presbyterian Church was a "mail-order" project of New York City Architect James Renwick, Jr. Renwick (1818-1895) was Architect of New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral (1853-1887) & the original Castle Building (1846) of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Numerous architectural details of this church building bear an uncanny resemblance to Renwick's 1850 Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel in Georgetown, DC. Construction began in 1849 on the First Presbyterian Church; it was dedicated in December 1851 and built at a cost of $15,000.

Except for the Church Bell Tower on the south corner, the original building remained unaltered for many years. An early rendering, as well as a pre-1890 photograph, show a tall tapered spire of approximately the same height as the brick tower on which it rests. Photographs from the early history of the OFL (c.1900) show a pyramid shaped roof (of approximately a 12/12 pitch) resting on top of the original brick Bell Tower. At some unknown later date (estimated to be c.1908) this roof was removed & the crenellated terra cotta & brick parapet wall & flat roof (which resembles the tower at the Smithsonian) was built. By the beginning of the 21st Century, the Former Church Building, as well as the 1908 Stack Wing Addition, was exhibiting signs of "old age." After receiving reports from roof & masonry consultants, this Architect was hired to perform a comprehensive analysis of the OFL facility. The result of this study was the recommendation of a multi-phase renovation program. In 2006 the OFL applied for & received substantial renovation grants from the Keystone Grant Program of the Commonwealth Libraries & from Luzerne County. This Architect was authorized in April 2007 to begin Construction Documents on the first 3 phases of OFL's exterior renovations, which included complete masonry restoration of the 1849 Former Church, the 1892 Addition and 1908 Stack Wing, as well as the complete rebuilding (with salvaged brick & terra cotta) of the top 15'? of the Bell Tower. New wood & aluminum louvers were replicated to replace the deteriorated louvers in the Bell Tower. Stained glass windows in both portions were removed, restored and reinstalled with new vented protective storm windows.

Although specifications called for salvaging of existing brick, it was estimated that the salvage rate would be 75 to 80%. Therefore, replacement brick, matching both color and course height was specified and limited to use on the rear side of the Bell Tower. Mortar testing revealed that the sand contained small amounts of anthracite "dust," which was incorporated into the new mortar mixA new flat seam copper roof was installed on top of the Bell Tower, and Black Pennsylvania Slate was replaced on the 1908 Stack Wing. A new contemporary pole-mounted sign and modest landscaping was also included in this phase of work.

Project Participants

Owner: Osterhout Free Library

  • Architect/Desinger: Carl J. Handman, Eyerman.Csala.Hapeman & Handman Architects
  • Structural Engineer: Emmanuel D. Pons, E.D. Pons & Associates
  • General Contractor: Erik Valentino, Masonry Preservation Services
  • Masonry Contractor: Erik Valentino, Masonry Preservation Services
  • Other: Glen Gery Brick Center
  • Other: Beavertown Block Co. Inc.
  • Other: Penn Big Bed Slate Co. Inc.
  • Other: General Roofing, Inc.
  • Other: Hanover Nursery