Reconstructing “The Granite Building” piece by piece

October 1, 2007
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The 31,200-square-foot Consigli Construction Co., Inc.’s modern headquarters, commonly referred to as the “The Granite Building,” in Milford, MA, is the first granite building on record in the U.S. to be deconstructed and re-constructed to its original specifications.

 

Photo courtesy of Peter Vanderwarker


The 31,200-square-foot Consigli Construction Co., Inc.’s modern headquarters, commonly referred to as “The Granite Building,” in Milford, MA, is the first granite building on record in the U.S. to be deconstructed and re-constructed to its original specifications. Consigli saved the building from being demolished by the town, and moved it piece by piece to its new location a half mile down the road, where it now serves as the company’s headquarters. The goal when moving the building was to salvage the granite blocks and the roofing slate, and reuse all of the materials in the reconstruction process.

Robert Allen Cook originally built the structure as a two-story, Colonial revival-style building in 1896 using Milford Pink granite, which had been locally quarried in Milford at the time. The facility was built to house the St. Mary’s Grammar School, which remained until it closed down in 1974. Tragically, 11 years later, in 1985, the building suffered damage from a severe fire, and the facility was boarded up.

In 2002, the building was put on Preservation Massachusetts’ “Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources” list. And in 2004, Consigli stepped in and expressed interest in purchasing the building. However, according to Mark Kaplan, proposal manager with Consigli Construction, the area was landlocked, and the town had planned to demolish the facility. “We wanted to save the building,” he said. “Our construction yard was located a half mile away, so we decided it was an appropriate location to move the building to.”

And so, with the help of lead architect Amsler Mashek MacLean, Architects Inc., and the associate architect, Architerra, Inc., the Consigli crew went to work on disassembling the building and moving each granite piece block by block to its new and present location. The granite blocks from the former school were dismantled and reconstructed, replicating the school’s footprint at the new site. “We had to restore it and rebuild it completely,” said Kaplan. Overall, there were 2,500 pieces of Milford Pink granite and 5,225 pieces of Monson Maine roofing slate that were salvaged from the old building and carried to the new headquarters.

According to Chris Dabek, project manager with Consigli Construction Co., Inc., the stone features a split-faced finish. On average, pieces measured 10 to 12 inches deep x 12 inches high x 2 to 3 feet long. “On the project overall, there were about 60 people on site on a daily basis, and about 10 of them were Consigli masons,” he said. “The granite pieces took roughly two months to remove and four months to reconstruct the granite facade.” Dabek also added that a JOS cleaning system was used to restore the granite’s appearance.

Consigli also built a large addition at the rear of the granite building, which includes another 20,000 square feet of space, but does not feature stone. The leftover granite from the original building was used to construct a retaining wall at the main entrance of the headquarters, while local fieldstone was used to build an additional retaining wall around the site’s perimeter.

According to Dabek, the stone setting began in the winter months, posing challenges for the crew. “The granite veneer also posed quite a challenge in that we had to ensure proper location,” he added. “We documented every single stone to make sure it went back in the proper spot.”

Structures North Consulting Engineers Inc. performed all structural design and detailing of the headquarters, including the building and the adjacent site stone retaining walls. According to the company, the granite blocks were tied to a 3-foot-thick reinforced concrete masonry unit (CMU) backup wall using stainless steel ties in order to support the historic granite structure. “In order to maintain its original character, our design permitted Consigli to reinforce and re-use the roof trusses of the former school building, and frame the second floor of “The Granite Building” with reclaimed wood from other historic buildings,” according to a design statement from Structures North Consulting Engineers Inc.

Construction on the building lasted for one year, finishing in June 2006. “We are extremely happy with the new building and the new location,” said Kaplan. “We had a grand opening a year ago and got nothing but positive responses from the community and the local architecture community as well. We also hear from local contractors all the time saying how great our building is.”

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