Alumni Court: Restoration Update

The first phase of restoration of the Cranbrook Alumni Court commenced on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. This area, on the far western edge of the original Cranbrook School for Boys campus, contains many beautiful carvings commemorating graduating classes of Cranbrook seniors arranged around a lawn. Phase 1 of the restoration includes rebuilding the upper level walkway running east to west, relaying the paving on the courtyard interior, and restoring the columns, arches, and wall running east to west.  (Future phases include the upper level walkway, columns, and arches running north to south, the masonry stairs aside the courtyard, and all flat paving to the football oval.)

Plan-Ph1-Main.jpg

Plan of Phase 1 activity (in color) at the Alumni Court. Phase 2 is at left (white). Courtesy of Cranbrook Capital Projects.

Over the years, salt and water infiltration caused major deterioration of the Alumni Court’s paving, walls, and walkways. One of the most important improvements we added to this project is heating the walkways.  Heating minimizes the resources needed to constantly shovel and spread ice melt, preserving the materials.

The project’s contractor began with demolition of all material that was beyond repair–mostly the flat areas and the setting beds below.IMG_2343Once the demolition was complete, the contractor replaced the underground storm drain, which was originally clay piping, with new PVC piping. Clay piping is brittle and therefore susceptible to intruding tree roots which lead to leaks and clogs.  The PVC piping will last much longer and minimize maintenance work. Once the PVC piping was installed, soil was filled in and compacted and the trenches were capped with concrete. IMG_2378The next activity was demolishing the concrete bridge. All the existing limestone newel posts and railings were in good condition, so they were set aside to be reinstalled. The masonry wall, below the bridge, was also disassembled because many of the bricks were extremely fragile and showed efflorescence.IMG_2599After a summer of careful work, the masonry wall and arches have been rebuilt to their original beauty.  IMG_0159The concrete bridge has been layered with waterproofing, reinforcing, and heating pipes, and is ready to be poured back with concrete.  The flat paving areas are being prepared for their final layer of brick and stone. IMG_0188Look forward to a final update here on the Blog once the project is complete! As always, many thanks to the contractors who are working hard on this beautiful restoration.

Ryan Pfeifer, Project Manager II, Cranbrook Capital Projects

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

Discoveries Around Campus

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The dormers at Cranbrook House. Cranbrook Archives.

The staff at the Center for Collections and Research work closely with the Capital Projects and Facilities staff on campus restoration and repair projects. The archival staff often provides historical photographs, documentation, and architectural drawings to the project managers. Sometimes the staff makes interesting discoveries during the projects they are working on and share them with us.  The other day Craig Hoernschemeyer (Project Manager for Capital Projects) was in the archives looking for a historic photograph of a dormer window on the east addition (1918-1919) of Cranbrook House.  As luck would have it, he found one.  The following is from Craig:

“Today, when the copper roof was opened up on that dormer – center right in the photo [above]- we found a bunch of newspaper mixed in with the insulation. It was no surprise that it was The Detroit News, but it was dated the first day of winter, December 21, 1919. It was there during the original construction of the wing.”

Detroit News, 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Detroit News, 21 Dec 1919. Photo Craig Hoernschemeyer.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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