Story Chapel Exterior Masonry Repairs

March 12, 2020

Work will begin in February 2020 on the second phase of a two-year exterior masonry repair project at Story Chapel.  The project includes rebuilding many of the building’s stone buttresses, extensive repairs to the chapel’s chancel wall, and 100% repointing of the exterior masonry joints.  Ongoing moisture issues related to deterioration of the stonework necessitate replacement of a significant amount of the stone at the buttresses and throughout the building. 

The original red sandstone quarried in Potsdam, New York, was susceptible to splitting along bedding planes, opening up gaps in the stone and contributing to failed masonry joints through which water can penetrate.  The Potsdam sandstone is no longer quarried, so identifying a replacement of stone has been an ongoing challenge for maintaining the building.  Working with architects at McGinley Kalsow and Associates, a suitable red sandstone from Locharbriggs, Scotland, was identified in 2015, and was used on two smaller repair projects in order confirm that it was a good substitute.  When dry the replacement stone is a very close match in terms of color, and it was used successfully in a 2017 pilot project to reconstruct buttresses at the southeast corner of the building. The pilot project also provided us with an opportunity to test different mortar recipes for compatibility, color, texture and workability. 

The first phase of the project, completed in December 2019, consisted of repairs at the west end of Story Chapel. Work included extensive structural repairs and masonry reconstruction on the upper third of the tower in addition to rebuilding most of the buttresses with new sandstone.  The gables to the north and south of the chapel entrance also underwent significant repairs to damaged stonework. Finally the tower roof was replaced and all new copper roof flashings were installed to eliminate potential water penetration.

The second phase of work will include cleaning, repointing, rebuilding buttresses and selective stone replacement on the south side of the chapel, as well as major work on the east end of the building. The chancel wall on the east end requires reconstruction of deteriorated supporting interior masonry, some stone replacement on the exterior, and repairs to the tracery of the stained glass window. During this second phase we will remove the chancel stained glass window for conservation and restore the original interior brickwork in the chancel area.

Similar to last year, there will be construction related impact on our use of Story Chapel for memorial services, for public programs and as a Visitors Center. Please check with the Visitor Center desk at 617-607-1963 or email for information on the building schedule and Visitors Center hours.  For the safety of all we do request that visitors stay out of construction zones and be mindful of the presence of construction vehicles as they make their way in and out of the Cemetery. We thank everyone for their patience and look forward to completing this important preservation project in 2020.

About the Author: Gus Fraser

Vice President of Preservation & Facilities View all posts by Gus Fraser →

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