As the third oldest federally occupied building in Washington, DC – preceded only by the U.S. Capitol and the White House – the Treasury Department building has had to evolve, expand and be maintained in its more than a century and a half of use.
As part of that effort and in partnership with the Treasury Historical Association, Treasury has begun a project to restore the balustrade of the grand West Wing spiral staircases. The double curving staircases just off of the West Lobby across from the White House rise three stories up to a triple-skylight dome designed in 1869 by Treasury Supervising Architect Alfred B. Mullett.
In 2004, during a comprehensive building modernization and restoration project, elevators that were inserted into the stairwells in 1910 were removed, along with concrete pads that covered the skylights for black-out precautions during World War II. At the time of the renovation, funds were not available to restore damaged sections of the stone, railing, balustrade and decorative trim of the West Wing staircases. Thanks to a public-private partnership through a Capital Development Campaign by the Treasury Historical Association, a historic preservation project has now begun to complete the restoration of this important architectural feature of the Treasury building.
The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011. See below for photos of our work to date and check back with us at Treasury Notes for updates as this project continues.
Scaffolding to take measurements and make molds of missing features is installed inside one of the West Wing staircases.
Measurements are taken of missing pieces of the granite stone trim that were removed to accommodate the elevators installed in 1910 (and again in the 1940s).
Scaffolding in the West Wing stairwell served as a working platform for taking measurements, mold making and laser 3D scanning of intricate details.
A hand-held laser scanning devise records the ornamental balustrade pieces in three dimensional detail for to help create a model and then a mold for missing pieces of the balustrade.
The stairwell railing is a combination of a carved wood railing and a second brass railing feature. A component of the brass mailing is wrapped in a flexible molding material to serve as a model for casting missing pieces.
The underside of every floor of the stairwell has a pressed metal ceiling detail in the corners and along the perimeter. A flexible molding material is spread over the metal ceiling and allowed to dry to form a mold for casting missing details.
The finished flexible mold is removed from the pressed metal ceiling detail.
A portable laser scanning equipment is used to record in three dimensions some of the architectural details of the West Wing stairwell.
Learn more about the Treasury Building.
Richard Cote is Curator for the United States Department of the Treasury.