Newcomer Hall restoration tops out

By Alan Bowman, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal

MCA Project Manager Alan Bowman and Project Designer
Kaitlyn Kehoe inspect progress on the terra cotta
restoration work on the Maryland state seal

The exterior restoration and interior renovation of historic Newcomer Hall at the Maryland School for the Blind hit a milestone with completion of much of the exterior envelope restoration. Following Department of the Interior Guidelines and as approved by the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), the exterior facade of the c: 1910 masonry building has undergone a complete restoration, now reaching completion as removal of the elaborate construction scaffolding which encased the entire structure begins.

Of special note on the exterior work is the careful restoration of extensive amounts of glazed Terra Cotta, used for cornices, fascias, finials, and other ornate detailing, most notably the 10 foot high representation of the Maryland State seal perched high on the building overlooking the main entrance. We are looking forward to seeing the final result once all the scaffolding is removed and the details completed, but our preliminary inspections indicate a stunning transformation for the building.

All exterior brickwork has been gently but thoroughly washed by hand with pure water and repointed where necessary. Exterior windows have been replaced with custom made single-pane wood windows to match original profiles, per MHT requirements, with exterior storm windows applied to the exterior for energy efficiency and longevity. Many of the double-hung windows are quite large, but the installation has gone well and the storm windows have very clean aesthetic lines.

The existing slate roofing is mostly intact, but has been repaired and replaced in sections where necessary. The original Pennsylvania slate quarry that supplied the original building has long since shut down, but Construction Manager Lewis Contractors of Baltimore were able to obtain the last remaining pallets of an extremely close matching slate found in Ohio, enough for the current project with some remaining for the Owners future repair needs. All existing copper flashings and gutters have been replaced, and some copper details such as an original copper roof hatch, in irreparable condition, were also replaced. The large copper roof vents, once used in an original and innovative steam-convection cooling system have been restored and now continue to serve the building by providing intake and exhaust air for the new mechanical systems.

Newcomer Hall, originally designed by Joseph Evans Sperry, is one of several buildings that MCA has been working on for Maryland School for the Blind for the past three years as part of a major capital projects initiative. Construction on Newcomer and the adjacent Case and Campbell Halls is expected to last through July, 2020.