Preservation Merit Award
for the restoration of 16 chimneys at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 North Portage Path, Akron
A National Historic Landmark adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is the former estate of Frank and Gertrude Seiberling and their large family. Mr. Seiberling co-founded the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1898 and the Seiberling Rubber Company in 1921. The Seiberling home was designed by Architect Charles S. Schneider and completed in 1916. The 65-room Manor House represents one of the finest examples of Tudor Revival architecture in America but time has taken its toll. Ninety years after its construction, twelve of the chimneys on the Manor House and four chimneys on the three other support structures on the property had fallen into a state of disrepair. In the 1970s, in the misguided hope of eliminating the need to repoint the masonry in the future, Portland cement was added to the mortar mix with the idea that it would ensure that the mortar wouldn't crumble and need to be replaced. But this resulted in mortar that was harder than the historic brick. So, rather than the mortar taking the strain of expansion and contraction over time, as has been the design in masonry construction for centuries, the softer brick took it all and began to fail. Cracking, spalling and crumbling bricks allowed water to penetrate in whole new ways causing whole bricks to break apart and dislodge. The 1970’s re-pointing work restored the appearance of the chimneys but unfortunately destroyed the bricks.
Complicating this issue even more was the meticulous Tudor Revival style design of Stan Hywet. To create the illusion of an estate that had evolved over generations, each chimney was designed to be distinctly different from the others. To create the different chimneys, each has uniquely carved and shaped bricks. The simplest has a single stack and uses nine specially shaped bricks while the most ornate chimney hosts four stacks and has 27 specially shaped bricks. The low probability of successfully salvaging this specialty brick led to the decision to replicate the original chimneys.
Through a Federal "Save America's Treasures" matching grant of $500,000, the restoration project was able to move forward to completion this year.
A key factor in the success of this project was the recreation of the hand carved brick. Colonial Brick Corporation from Indiana, one of the last brick yard that still uses early 20th century methods, was willing to take on the challenge. Compared to today's automated equipment, using the older methods is extremely labor intensive but allows variations in brick size, color and texture comparatively easily. Dan Swath and his crew worked closely with Stan Hywet staff in the faithful replication of all the brick needed.
When possible, three bricks of each shape were salvaged from the chimneys. One set of bricks are permanently archived for reference. One set was sent to the brick maker and the final set was used for field comparison and was reset into the respective chimney. Because of its inaccessibility, one chimney was not re-pointed in the 1970s was left as a marker for future research of the original construction.
In a similar manner, George Wischt & Sons Construction Inc., a masonry company from Kent, Ohio worked with Stan Hywet's Director of Historic Structures and Architect Mark Gilles to salvage and document the special shapes needed for each unique chimney. Finally, the original mortar mix was replicated using the original architect's specifications. The outcome is an exact replication of the original chimneys.
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