November 29, 2017 – Baltimore’s Homewood Mansion Museum, listed on the National Historic Registry, recently received some much-needed improvements to the roof drainage system. Built between 1801 and 1809, Homewood survives as Baltimore’s only in-tact Federal mansion.
Lewis Contractors of Owings Mills was selected as the contractor to complete the work, given their in-depth experience in working with sensitive historic structures.
Homewood’s foundation and lower level interior was consistently being damaged by rainwater running off the steeply sloped roofs of this five-part Palladian-plan structure. Ultimately, this important building’s foundation may have been severely compromised had the drainage issues not been remediated. But this remediation presented a number of challenges.
Homewood is located high on a hill in the middle of Johns Hopkins University’s occupied campus. Beneath its lush lawn is a spider web of utilities which serve the entire campus; necessitating that most of the 18” to 5’ deep excavation to replace the underground storm water piping be completed by hand – using only shovels. The apron which surrounds the home is historic brick which needed to be removed, catalogued and replaced once the work neared completion. Lewis investigated the original pattern for the brick apron and it is now re-laid correctly for the first time in decades. The earth beneath the apron needed to be properly sloped such that the water would drain away from the building, another task which was completed by hand. There are several major trees adjacent to the home which were to be protected, and excavation near them could only be completed using air spade techniques – a slow, noisy, painstaking operation which could have disrupted the sleep of nearby students and neighbors. New, larger diameter lead coated copper gutters and downspouts needed to be custom fabricated for the entire building and the historic copper scuppers shown to remain needed to be modified to receive the new larger materials.
Unusual for most projects, and because Homewood is a National Historic Landmark, this contract added an on-site, full time archeologist to the project team. The archeologist provided oversight for all of the underground work, up to and including installation of the security fence posts.
Despite an inordinate amount of rain during the summer, Lewis was able to meet the schedule and the newly arriving freshman continued the longstanding tradition of entering the University campus by walking through Homewood Mansion.