Renovating a collegiate sandstone landmark
Boston University's castle, which is constructed of sandstone, was renovated and cleaned to bring the building back to its original splendor
Boston-based architectural firm, Finegold Alexander Architects, recently transformed Boston University’s (BU) historic Tudor Revival-style castle into the new Dahod Family Alumni Center. The 15,371-square-foot gathering place, which serves BU’s 300,000-plus graduates, features original sandstone masonry on the exterior that was carefully cleaned, repointed and patched to restore the building back to its original grandeur.
The castle, which is part of Boston’s Bay State Road Historic District, was originally built in 1915 as a family home and donated to BU in 1939 to be used as the residence of BU’s presidents. Since 1967, it had been used mainly for official functions, weddings and a myriad of University events.
“The primary goal of this project was to put alumni literally and figuratively at the heart of the Charles River campus, while renovating, restoring and preserving the remarkable building,” said Rebecca Berry, president of Finegold Alexander Architects, Inc.
More than 100 years of wear-and-tear was removed, as the sandstone exterior was carefully cleaned, repointed and patched. “The castle is constructed of sandstone, which at the outset of the project was very heavily soiled with carbon,” Berry explained. “This made it difficult in initial surveys to determine the extent and number of stones previously patched, complicating the development of accurate quantities for stone repair or replacement. Once the building was cleaned, additional patches and defects became obvious and we were able to determine repairs or replacement on a stone-by-stone basis. This resulted in an increase in general masonry scope. To assist the owner with these added costs, areas for patching and replacement were prioritized based on proximity to building users and passerby, as well as the extent of stone erosion – e.g., aesthetic versus structural.”
Approximately 9,500 square feet of sandstone was restored on the exterior. For the areas that needed repairing and replacements, Berea Sandstone™ from Cleveland Quarries in Vermilion, OH, was utilized.
The castle’s interior finishes were also renovated. A new, full-service commercial kitchen was added to the Pub, as well as a 1,000-square-foot addition; new equipment replaced outdated appliances in the catering kitchen; a food lift was added from the ground floor commercial kitchen for better access; and updates were made to BU’s Alumni Relations office on the second and third floors.
During the exterior stone restoration process, weekly onsite visits from Finegold Alexander Architects and the project’s historic preservation consultant, Building Conservation Associates Inc. (BCA) in Newtown Centre, MA, were crucial to ensure that everything went according to plan. “Replacement stones had to be selected and mock-ups approved,” said Berry. “Mock-ups consisted of tooling samples (hand tooling of the stone was done onsite). The castle had quite a variety of tooling patterns and each replacement stone had to be tooled to match the adjacent stones. Dutchman installations and stone patching were reviewed and approved at each location. BCA was the reviewer and ultimate approver for all these items.
“Due to the interaction between the castellation stones and gable capstones with the roofing systems, Finegold Alexander oversaw the mock-up process for the variety of details where copper roof flashing was tied into these stones,” the architect went on to say. “All castellation stones and gable capstones were initially removed and numbered for reinstallation during the restoration process.”
Altogether, the project took around one year to complete, and has since been awarded a Preservation Achievement Award from the Boston Preservation Alliance. “The reaction has been quite positive and complimentary, particularly from professionals in the preservation community,” said Berry. “The restoration of the castle to its present appearance is quite dramatic — bringing it back to its original appearance and revealing detailing previously hidden beneath decades of urban pollution and its resulting damage.”