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Wednesday, May 31 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Architecture) The Perfect Room: The Restoration of the Old Senate Chamber at the Maryland State House, Annapolis Maryland

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The Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House was the location of nationally significant events in 1783 and 1784. As the temporary home of the Continental Congress, it was here that General George Washington resigned his commission to Congress, thus creating the first modern democracy. It was also in this room where the Treaty of Paris was ratified, officially ending the Revolutionary War. The historic space recently underwent a multi-year, state-of-the-art restoration to return the room as accurately as possible to its 18th-century appearance. Exhaustive physical investigation and meticulous research ensured the authenticity of the richly-ornamented architectural detailing and the furnishings as they would have appeared on December 23, 1783. This paper documents the decision making processes required to adapt the use of historical materials and methods of construction, to matters of budget, schedule, existing conditions and performance. "The Perfect Room" explores the real consequences and the effects of modern systems and technology on a single room preserved through pristine approaches of traditional processes using authentic 18th century materials. Traditional craftsmen, experienced in 18th-century building practices, undertook various aspects of the restoration, including the creation of flat and decorative plasterwork, millwork, flooring, blacksmithing, and painting, using period techniques. Hand-mixed paints, reclaimed flooring of the highest quality, lime plaster, and hand-planed lumber were used on all visible surfaces. From the beginning, the project team aimed for the highest standard of authenticity in the use of traditional materials and historic construction methods. Yet, the reality of restoring such a room in a modern environment meant creating a balance between using modern materials and techniques in the infrastructure and sub-surface areas and maintaining a visibly 18th-century finished space.

This presentation will provide an analysis of the design details for the following project components:

  • Conservation of the central niche.
  • Conservation of the original columns, and columns from an early balcony restoration.
  • Hand-mixed paints and distemper coatings.
  • Installation of edge dowelled floor boards.
  • Millwork. Why it was necessary to glue certain components of the millwork to ensure its stability.
  • Nails. Mild steel was used in the production of handmade nails; wrought iron was not available in the time frame in which the project had to be completed. Nail production also utilized machine stamping of heads in lieu of hand-forging.
  • Furring strips were primed on all sides to ensure stability and long lasting performance. There was no evidence that the original furring strips were coated.
  • Decorative Plaster was precast (rather than run-in-place) with some applied detailing for cost and schedule savings.
  • Flat Plaster on brick masonry walls, the use of rice paper to preserve traces of original 18th century plaster and wire mesh lath to ensure stability of lime plaster over a cracked brick substrate.
  • The reality of using historic materials and techniques within a building with modern mechanical systems, in-use as a functioning government complex.

avatar for David C. Overholt

David C. Overholt

Senior Project Manager, The Christman Company
Current Projects: Russell Senate Office Building Exterior Envelope Repair and Restoration, Cannon House Office Building Renewal, Capitol Hill, Washington DC. Evergreen Museum and Library Fire Suppression, Baltimore MD. Union Station Rostral Columns Restoration, Washington DC. Recently... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 9:00am - 9:30am CDT
Crystal Ballroom A Lobby Level, West Tower