2022 Historic Restoration Award | Wisconsin Historical Society

Feature Story

2022 Historic Restoration Award Winners Announced

2022 Historic Restoration Award | Wisconsin Historical Society

The 2022 Historic Restoration Awards have been awarded to the City of Madison for their restoration of the Gates of Heaven Synagogue and to MSI General Corp. for their restoration of the Riviera

About the Projects

Gates of Heaven Synagogue, City of Madison (restoration under $1 million)

Built in 1863, Gates of Heaven Synagogue was designed in the German form of Romanesque Revival by local architect August Kutzbock. After being threatened with demolition, the building was relocated to James Madison Park in 1971.

At the start of this project in 2018, the ornate Madison sandstone façade was noticeably deteriorating. The building masonry was discolored from dirt and biological growth. The faces of the sandstone were eroding to sand. This and deteriorating windows were subsequently causing interior water-infiltration issues as well. The need for preservation and consolidation of the sandstone façade was imminent at a critical moment for the history of the building.

Madison sandstone was readily available during Madison's rapid development in the mid-1850s. It was used in a variety of applications from foundation material for vernacular residential buildings to highly detailed commercial building façades. Given its favorable properties, Madison sandstone was used as a local building material until the quarries were depleted. Because of its prolific use, Madison sandstone is not available in any capacity unless sourced for replacement through the demolition of existing structures. This material scarcity meant that even the most deteriorated stones would need to be preserved or a suitable alternate replacement material would need to be sourced. The design team provided an intensive two-year study to investigate the stone and its physical properties and to determine the best methods for replacement, stabilization, and consolidation to ensure the future protection of the sandstone façade.

It was determined that the Madison sandstone, when exposed to the elements at grade, would continue to deteriorate unless the water absorption from the exterior was minimized. After a world-wide search, it was also determined that replacement stone would not match the physical properties and characteristics of the sandstone. Finally, it was recommended that the consolidation solution be applied to the stone to bind the exterior surface to the inner structure so that deterioration is significantly slowed.

In order to address the project goals, a masonry preservation plan was prepared. The plan included developing proper methods for evaluating the condition of the existing masonry, cleaning the brick and stone, investigating options for stone repair, designing a stone consolidation treatment, and analyzing original mortar. The cleaning and consolidation process and materials were fully vetted, first in a laboratory, and then in the field to ensure that the goals were being met. These mock-ups were completed prior to bidding and execution of the work. The project successfully tested an implementation plan for the preservation of Madison sandstone that can be used for other sandstone buildings in the area.

The General Contractor's staff was trained by a masonry specialist on the appropriate techniques for working with historic masonry, removing existing inappropriate mortar without causing damage, cleaning the masonry, and applying the stone consolidation treatment. The Contractor also repointed the brick and stone, repaired the roof finials, replaced minimal window trim, re-glazed the windows, repaired the door panels, and repainted the doors and windows and related trim.

The restoration and preservation work done by the City of Madison to the Gates of Heaven building is but a continuation of its commitment to this unique building in the city. From the relocation to its current location in 1971 and now the intensive study of Madison sandstone that enabled critical repairs, the city is diligent in its preservation work and seeks to understand the unique qualities and challenges of the form, features, and character of this building. This commitment honors the past by ensuring the building has continued use and a future not threatened by the sands of time.

The Riviera, MSI General Corp. (restoration over $1 million)

The Riviera was built in 1932 on a rubble mound on the northeast shore of Geneva Lake. The well-established, elegant Riviera Ballroom on the second floor is a popular venue for weddings and events. The first floor, originally designed as a bathhouse for Riviera Beach, is a vital space housing public restrooms and seasonal concessions for beach and marina patrons. Through a public comment process, the City of Lake Geneva generated renovation plans to address problems pertaining to extensive roof and window leaks and the deterioration of the masonry, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The first phase of exterior improvements began in February 2020, and an overhaul of the interior began the following winter, all completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The architectural and construction methods of Phase 1 were carefully orchestrated to ensure the maximum amount of existing materials were retained. The primary goal was to preserve the existing building by maintaining the integrity and materials of the Riviera property. Concrete roof tiles were replaced with clay tiles, which was the material used in 1932. Exterior work included protecting and stabilizing the original brick structure. All windows were replaced with simulated steel sash windows reminiscent of the original window style. Original installation methods and materials were confirmed through research of historic documentation to get as close as possible to the building's original form.

Careful analysis and planning were necessary to properly restore the interior. Elements that were added in the 1980s that did not reflect the original design and intent of the building were removed. Numerous interior projects were completed while preserving the material selections, design features, and finishes as identified within historical documentation. Any materials that were removed as part of construction were cleaned, stacked, palletized, and reused in the finish of the interior spaces.

The design also included reconstruction of the interior when necessary. On the main floor, removal of an epoxy painted flooring system uncovered what is believed to be the original terrazzo floor. On the second floor, a reconstructed catering bar and reception desk closely depict a historical reference of the space from the 1930s.

The restoration and preservation of the Riviera not only repaired the historic fabric of the building, but it also correctly restored numerous historic features and reversed previous work that hid or did not respect the building's historic character. Large restoration projects like the Riviera not only have to repair the historic building but correct previous work that was out of step with a historic building, while also meeting modern standards and ADA requirements.

About the Restoration Award

The award goes to the best restoration work of a Wisconsin historic property that involves comprehensive work to restore a historic building, structure, object, or site.

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