April 23, 2018 – Having restored the Peabody Institute Library, the nation’s first monument to President George Washington—the Mt. Vernon Washington Monument—, and most recently The Walters Art Museum’s One West Mt. Vernon Place, Lewis Contractors has amassed a broad knowledge base for overseeing work on Mt. Vernon’s popular park square.
In recognition of this most recent project for The Walters Art Museum, the Associated Builders and Contractors Baltimore Chapter (ABC), Baltimore Heritage, and Preservation Maryland have individually honored the highly successful restoration project with awards. ABC’s awards annually recognize the best of the best construction projects completed by member firms. Owner satisfaction with the contractor’s work is the primary criteria to receive their award, and all entries are subject to peer review. Baltimore Heritage’s awards recognize restoration work completed on historic properties located within the city. Lastly, Preservation Maryland has awarded the project their Artisan Award to commend the outstanding craftsmanship of many of Lewis’ trade contractors. Award ceremonies for each of these organizations will be held in spring 2018.
Constructed in 1850, One West Mt. Vernon Place remained continuously occupied until it was gifted to The Walters Art Museum in 1984 and, for the first time in history, the home became a host to art. Three decades later, Lewis Contractors was contracted to install the first water mist fire protection system of its kind in the United States within the home. In keeping with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration, and with the guidance of Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), the system was installed in such a way as to be virtually invisible to guests. The new water mist system is an innovative approach to building fire suppression and utilizes a water mist rather than a deluge to extinguish a fire.
Installation of this unique system presented multiple challenges to the Lewis team. First, the system, originally designed to protect cargo containers on ships, was the first installation of its kind in Baltimore City and, thus, no precedent for installation requirements had been set among the varying invested parties. In addition, the materials are manufactured in Europe, which presented its own set of challenges for materials deliveries. Also, many of the VESDA Early Warning System devices and water mist heads within the three-story atrium foyer were to be placed within the delicate complex plaster ornamentation at the circular stairway—at its ceiling which houses an original Tiffany lay light and within the surrounding ornamented plaster ceiling.
Installation of the water mist system piping to serve the museum’s first floor required removal, cataloguing, repair and replacement of the historic wood flooring on the museum’s second floor. Fully completed, it is almost impossible to tell which parts of the floor have been removed and damaged areas replaced.
Lewis was also charged with work in two other areas of the home. Restoration of the Ford Gallery, a newer structure which was originally the carriage house for the home, was added to the project scope with no increase in time. Lewis forces also totally restored the conservatory where only the roof framing and marble floor remained intact. To the greatest extent possible, historic materials were re-used for the restoration and newly installed materials closely mirror those which had deteriorated. New windows were installed throughout the conservatory, and new storm windows grace the balance of the home to provide thermal efficiency.
The roofs have been replaced, bay window restored, cast iron antefix ornaments repaired or replicated if beyond repair and the historic cast iron window pediments totally restored as a part of this work. Final repairs to the home’s exterior will be completed under a future contract.