Tree Falls on Shoe Falls: A Story of Restoration

This week’s post is from a new guest contributor, Ryan Pfeifer. Ryan works with Cranbrook’s Capital Projects Office, and we hope to feature more of his (and Capital Projects) work to preserve our historic campus in the future! -Ed.

Nestled in the forest between the Greek Theatre and Triton Pools sits an overlook known as Shoe Falls.* While researching original drawings at Cranbrook Archives, I discovered that the pond, waterfall, and overlook were designed in 1941 by Cranbrook’s civil engineer, John Buckberrough, and constructed in 1943.

During a storm in mid-November 2016, a large tree fell onto the railing, fatally cracking two railing caps and dislodging seven balusters. Cranbrook’s Capital Projects Office was tasked with managing the restoration of this historic site on campus.

The first step in the restoration process was to carefully remove the stones and set them aside. This way, the grounds crew could remove the fallen tree. The cracked limestone railing caps were digitally measured and new pieces were ordered from a local stone fabricator, who purchases new limestone from Indiana. The baluster stones were reused but meticulously cleaned of old mortar, dirt and other debris. To make sure the railing replacement was to the highest quality possible, holes were drilled in the bottom slab and stainless steel pins were inserted. The pins were epoxied into place which permanently attaches them to the bottom slab and creates an anchor point for the baluster. A small bed of mortar was placed around the pin and the balusters were set on top of the mortar. Each baluster was leveled vertically and horizontally to ensure the stone caps would sit perfectly level.

The same procedure, with the epoxied pins and mortar, was performed on top of each baluster so the railing cap would be tied to the supporting elements below. Finally, the caps were set into place, again keeping a close eye on leveling and placement so everything was put back seamlessly. Come spring, the site will be fully restored by planting grass seed. Many thanks to the contractor and crew for an outstanding historic restoration project!

*The small pond which feeds the waterfall was initially named Shoe Lake and the waterfall did not have a specific name, however, over the years, the name Shoe Falls has been adopted for this entire area.

Ryan Pfeifer, Project Manager II, Cranbrook Capital Projects

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