Limestone structure provides beacon of hope

March 1, 2005
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The Hope Lodge in Cincinnati, OH, provides a haven for adult cancer patients to seek treatment and comfort in a warm home-like setting with their caregivers by their side. The historic building which houses this facility was formerly the Ursuline Academy, which was started in 1928. While the interior underwent a significant transformation to accommodate the needs of its new purpose, minimal restoration work was required to maintain the condition of the exterior limestone facade.

“The stonework was in very good shape, except for certain locations,” said Project Architect Steve Kenat, AIA, of GBBN Architects, Inc. in Cincinnati, OH. “In certain areas, replacement and cleaning were needed for the project.”

Initially built in 1880, the 55,000-square-foot, four-story structure is an architectural mix of eclectic Victorian Romanesque and Tudor Revival style. The building recently faced demolition to make the site into a parking lot before it was given to the American Cancer Society. A major addition was constructed in 1928 to house the Ursuline Academy, a private Catholic school. This most recent project involved gutting the inside and renovating the building to include 23 guest rooms with private baths, beds and closets. Additionally, an assessment of the exterior limestone led to cleaning and replacing some of the stone pieces to further enhance the Hope Lodge's appearance.

“The creation of a 'Home Away from Home' was the ultimate goal of the project,” said Kenat. “For almost 4,000 patients who travel to Cincinnati for cancer treatment, this place represents not only a free place to stay, but a sense of community in a time that is extraordinarily difficult emotionally and physically for themselves and their families. Ultimately, the design of the interior and exterior spaces was always intended to be modeled on a 'bed and breakfast' type of feel -- far less institutional than a stay at a hospital or even a motel.

The opportunity to start with such a richly detailed building as the former Ursuline Academy aligned completely with our efforts as designers.”

Architecturally, the building was very sound, according to the architect. “This meant that at least in the areas of the 1928 structure, we had the opportunity to take out all systems and walls -- everything inside the exterior walls but the structural columns and slabs,” he said. “This allowed us to open up the community spaces with a great amount of natural light as well as start from scratch with new systems that were more appropriate to the types of controls and privacy required by the individual guest suites.”

Restoring the exterior

The exterior of the Hope Lodge consists of native Cincinnati quarried stone and cut limestone integrated with brick. “Where some restoration [for the Cincinnati stone] was needed, replacement was the most economical way to correct the situation,” said John Jacob of J. Construction of Okeana, OH, stonemason for the project. “With having a native stone that is no longer quarried, we had to come up with an alternative solution, which was to use an Indiana limestone with a pitched face, buff color.”

Stone Clad, Inc. of Bedford, IN, supplied approximately 20 tons of veneer stone to be used as replacement pieces. Additionally, the company supplied between 100 and 200 cubic feet of cut stone for the project. On average, the limestone pieces measured 2 x 5 x 8 inches, and were installed in a random ashlar pattern. Cut stone was used for the caps.

“For the repairs of the existing building, patching was kept to a minimum, thanks to the good condition of the building,” said Kenat. “In areas of new work, such as the porte-cochere, entries and the new terrace adjoining the Great Room and Respite Garden, the selection of the stone allowed us to blend the new construction in with the existing, yet not compete.”

Gary Gaiser from Stone Clad explained that he went to the jobsite to assess the condition of the stonework. “We field measured everything,” he said. “Not everything was replaced, but we had to get templates in order to match the profiles and patterns of the existing stone that needed to be replaced. It was not really difficult to match. We do a lot of restoration work.”

Gaiser continued to explain that some time was spent with the mason to determine how the job would be done. “You can't always see everything,” he said. “It takes some doing to come up with answers and decide how to rebuild it. You can't always rebuild how it was [originally] built.”

According to Jacob, the most challenging aspect of the project was the constraints of the jobsite. “The way that we had to overcome this problem was to bring in just what we needed on a day-to-day basis,” he said, adding that reworking the existing gothic window stone tracery to accommodate the new windows also was an obstacle.

Completing the project

GBBN Architects was selected and began the programming and conceptual studies for the renovation and restoration of the Hope Lodge in May 2002, and the Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co. was selected as the construction manager that July, said Kenat. Construction / Permit documents were completed in December 2002, and demolition and construction commenced in February 2003. Work on the project was finished in the summer of 2004.

“Reaction from the American Cancer Society and from the community has been outstanding,” said the architect. “Not only is this a great resource for the cancer patients traveling to Cincinnati for treatment at the five hospitals within 1 1⁄2 miles of the Hope Lodge, but the inclusion of the Cancer Resource Center and American Cancer Society offices makes the organization far more visible than they had been at a suburban location -- and gives their mission and programs room for expansion and an identity of their own. Architectural and construction industry praise has been received as well, demonstrated by a recent award from the Cincinnati Preservation Association.”

End box

Hope Lodge
Cincinnati, OH

Renovation / Restoration Architect: GBBN Architects, Inc., Cincinnati, OH
Construction Manager: Messer Construction Co.,
Cincinnati, OH
Masonry Contractor: J. Construction Co., Inc., Okeana, OH
Stone Supplier: Stone Clad, Inc., Bedford, IN

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