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Historic Restoration And Preservation Of The Frederick Ayer Mansion

| January 25, 2014 |
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Foreman Jeffrey Cruse re-installs the precious Tiffany windows. Photograph by Damianos Photography

Boston—The five-story Ayer Mansion has been an architectural gem in the Back Bay neighborhood for over 100 years. The mansion was originally constructed between 1899 and 1901, as the urban residence for Frederick Ayer, a successful businessman. Completed in 1902, the Ayer Mansion is the sole surviving residence created entirely by famed American designer and artisan Louis Comfort Tiffany. In 1964, Trimount purchased the building and currently leases it to Bayridge, a residence and cultural center for women attending Boston area colleges and universities. Massachusetts Historic Commission named the building a National Historic Landmark in 2005.  A recently completed  preservation and renovation program was performed for Ayer Mansion

The façade alone represents some of the Tiffany Studio’s most extraordinary work, with stone mosaics in 30 different patterns, elaborate stained glass window screens made up of almost 10,000 miniscule pieces of glass, massive copper-clad doors, and stone columns embedded with hundreds of pieces of gold-foiled glass. The façade is ornamented with geometric stone mosaic panels and stone banding at all floor levels, and comprised of dressed pink granite ashlar block with brick masonry backup. The architectural elements consist of a granite cornice and Tennessee Marble (limestone) and granite belt courses accented with decorative stone mosaic tiles.

The Phase One Scope of Work included restoring the North Elevation granite block masonry façade by removing and replacing the existing mortar joints, and diluting restoration cleaning agents to remove natural staining. The upper level mosaics were steam cleaned, and scrubbed with small hand tools. Isolated areas of deteriorated mosaic tile joints were re-grouted and restored, and where missing, new tiles were installed. The entire third floor balcony parapet wall was carefully removed piece by piece, while maintaining all units intact. The stones were cataloged, packaged, protected, and hoisted down three stories of scaffolding to ground level. The stones were then loaded onto a truck and shipped offsite to the Conservators Warehouse in Watertown.

Preserving the balcony stones was a five-month long, labor-intensive process in which every square inch of the stones were steamed cleaned, scraped with fine hand tools, and restored to the original condition. Four of the seven mosaic medallions required all new mosaic tiles, which were sourced from the U.S.A. (Vermont and Tennessee), Spain, and Portugal. The existing precast concrete backup was salvaged and used to attach the new mosaics using an engineered anchoring system.

The granite and limestone bands below the balcony were also removed to expose the second floor steel window lintels, which were suspected to be deteriorated and corroded, potentially causing damage to surrounding building components. Removal of the granite block exposed the embedded steel, revealing satisfactory conditions. The steel supports were treated with protective coatings and the granite façade stones were re-set in the existing locations.

Once all the underlying structural and backup deficiencies were addressed, the treated and restored mosaic panels and bands, and the restored railing stones were reinstalled to match the original layout at the balcony level, completing the project scope.

The close collaboration of the design, conservation and construction team, the meticulous attention to detail, the provision of painstaking craftsmanship and the highest quality of work, is evident in the success of the project. The project was completed on schedule and on budget with minimal impact on the owners and occupants of the residence and the neighboring properties, and to the complete satisfaction of the owners and their vested partners. It is a true testament to the entire team.

Owner: Trimount Foundation, Inc

Tenant: Bayridge Residence And Cultural Center, Inc.

Archictect: Goody Clancy And Associates

Structural Engineer: Structures North Consulting Engineers, Inc.

Conservation Consultant: Building And Monument Conservation

Stained Glass Consultant: Julie Sloan LLC.

General Contractor: Contracting Specialists, Inc. (CSI)

Conservator: Daedalus Art, Inc.

Mosiac Tile Manufacturer: Colorco, Ltd.

Stained Glass Conservator: Lyn Hovey Studio, Inc.

Steel Fabricator: Deangelis Iron Work, Inc.

Photographer: Damianos Photography

 

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