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Restoration of the Old Naval Hospital

Complete Restoration Has Started

This site will document the current effort to completely restore the Old Naval Hospital that started in June, 2010, and is expected to take approximately one year. You may also review documentation of the previous restoration of the South Portico and Windows (2005 to 2007).

On this page you will find notes providing an overview of the restoration activities and progress with links to a selection of photographs representing the progress of the restoration activities on different dates. In addition to this overview, a Complete Documentation page is also available providing detailed photographs of the restoration.

All photographs may be reproduced without permission, but only for non-commercial purposes and must carry the credit: "Photo by Karl K. Kindel".


June 2010

The restoration of the Old Naval Hospital on Pennsylvania Avenue SE is imminent. The south elevation shows evidence of the earlier partial restoration, while the fence awaits being dismantled and restored to its original splendor.

The old Carriage House will be converted into a cafe serving the neighborhood and the Hill Center.

Click here to view all photographs by the date they were taken.

Click here to see information about the restoration of the south portico and windows (2005 to 2007).

July 2010

The first stage of the restoration of the Old Naval Hospital was the elimination of asbestos principally from non-original flooring and taking the lead-based paint off the walls. This was a long and dangerous process, but resulted in leaving the building clean and safe.

Then the old boiler was removed, most of the original doors were removed for restoration offsite and the demolition of non-original elements was undertaken. All the rooms were affected by these actions. Many details of the original construction were only now unveiled and seen.

Inside in the basement east-west corridor, a brick venting system under the floor was discovered . This apparently was designed to bring outside air into the venting system for the entire Hospital. It can now possibly be used for a wiring chase—an unexpected bonus.

The beginning of the fence restoration showed the original granite blocks upon which the fence was anchored. Although the solid granite blocks went about three feet into the ground and were about a foot by a foot and a half square, the fence was only anchored on two iron feet about three inches long which were fitted into the granite block and then filled with lead to hold them in place.

August 2010

As work progressed inside the building, a massive undertaking was starting outside: The Geothermal wells were being dug. These wells will go about 350 feet deep and there will be two basic parts to it: one system (or group of wells) on the northwest corner of the property and another on the southwest part. A large series of wells will be dug, lined, and then connected—all underground. They will then be filled with a liquid and connected to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, using the ground temperature to cool and heat the building—a very green technology.

Inside the building, the clean-up after the lead and asbestos abatement was finished and preparations for major construction were undertaken.

The fence was being dismantled and taken to be restored. Keeping track of all the various parts and pieces is a major undertaking, along with assuring that the location on the ground was well documented so that the fence could be reconstructed exactly in place.

A mock-up of the addition on the roof for housing some elevator elements, was put in place to physically see how that would affect the restoration. The old shed on the roof was removed leaving only the original widow's walk.

September 2010

Huge strides have been made in the beginning of this month. Work on stripping and preparing the door frames and window frames was begun in earnest. Plumbing work was begun in the basement while sheet metal ducting was being installed on the third floor.

The cutouts for the two new stairwells were made, going from the basement to the third floor. The basic cut through for the elevator was also made, preparing the way for beginning construction in those areas.

Some preliminary work on stripping the old finishes from the spindles of the banister of the existing stairwell was also begun, giving a glimpse of what is to come.

Outside, many windows have been covered with plywood while the windows are taken out for restoration.

The work on the geothermal HVAC progressed significantly, with much of the system drilled and the pipes installed. That work will finish in October.

Scaffolding was being installed for the restoration of the outside walls and window treatments, with a special span put in over the E Street entrance so as to avoid damaging the portico. Some interesting techniques were used to fasten the scaffolding to the building (through the windows) to avoid having to put holes into the walls.

At the end of the month, work was progressing at a rapid rate on the restoration of the fence. The work was being done by an old firm in Baltimore, G. Krug, that is still in the same building it was 200 years ago. The major pieces of the fence are sandblasted and then cleaned, repaired and primed. Some pieces have to be forged where they are missing. As soon as they are painted with the exterior coat, the fence pieces will be reinstalled.

Some pieces have to be recast, and that work is being done by the Swiss Foundry in Baltimore, under contract with G. Krug. There pieces like the stars, the compasses and the spears are cast using a formula similar to the original metal. They pour the hot metal into forms which, when cooled, are dismantled showing the new pieces.

The doors and windows are also being restored in Baltimore. There the old finish is taken off those doors and windows which are intact in a sealed room, and then preserved, sanded and primed. Some window need to be rebuilt when they are too dilapidated to restore. The doors and window will be final painted and installed towards the end of the restoration process of the Old Naval Hospital.

October 2010

Final sanding and priming of the door and window frames was a major effort during the month and much was accomplished in getting the elevator shaft in place and built including cutting through the roof on the third floor. The pieces cut out looked remarkable good given their age and neglect.

Outside, the work on the geothermal drilling was finished up, with the pipes all being connected from the many wells.

Work began on stripping the paint off the exterior walls. The entire process is enclosed under a cover of plastic wrapping and done with ice crystals instead of sand. Ice crystals are not as abrasive, they do not create nearly the mess and are much more friendly to the environment. This work started on the east side of the building and will progress around the north, then to the west side and then the south. When this work is completed, the scaffolding will remain in place so that the window treatments can be restored in place.

The fence base on the north side was encased in concrete and it needed to be removed with jackhammers. That work was carefully done and the fence came out of the concrete quite well. It was also sent to Baltimore for restoration.

November 2010

All the work for stripping the paint off of the exterior walls was completed and work on restoring the pointing was begun. The original mortar is tested for integrity and removed if necessary in preparation for replacement. The exterior will eventually be painted according to the historical research.

Work on the two stairwells was begun, starting with hoisting all the iron materials for the west staircase up and through the roof and down through the elevator shaft in preparation for installation. The ironwork for the east staircase was brought in through the west corridor window. Installation and welding began immediately and was completed on the west stairwell by the end of the month.

Demolition of the two walls on the second floor, to make the large meeting room was also completed, with significant shoring being placed throughout the building, from the ground floor to the third floor to the third floor (shown here).

While that work was progressing, interior walls were being prepared for plastering, with the southeastern corner room on the first floor was used for a complete mock-up starting with the lathe, and progressing to the underlayment of metal mesh, then to the brown (encapsulating) level and on to the fine nylon mesh before applying the final finish. The interior will be plastered to the brown layer for the time being and in spring, the final coat will be applied.

The geothermal system was all hooked together and then the final vault for the eight separate lines all brought together there ready to be connected into the HVAC system.

Restoration of the interior transoms proceeded apace with the work being done on site, as well as significant work was being completed on the exterior window frames for all the floors, with sanding and priming being the final steps at this time.

Work on electrical systems, plumbing, fire suppression and the like was well underway, and would be mostly finished at the end of December.

December 2010

December's unexpectedly cold weather slowed work on the outside of the building considerably. Some work on preparing for brick pointing was accomplished, however early in the month. Inside the building, the west staircase was mostly installed, while work on the east stairwell continued and was finished by the end of the month. However, some difficulties prevented pouring the concrete in the stairs until later.

All the bathrooms were being plumbed on all three floors and the base plastering work (called the “brown coat” or “encapsulating coat”) was being completed on all the floors. It appears that the final, smooth coat will be applied in the next month or so, when the heat will be available in sufficient quantities to allow that work to proceed.

Electrical work and the fire suppression systems were also getting into the final stages of completion so that the plaster work and ceilings would be ready for installation. The central, large room on the second floor was prepared for the steel beams and columns that would be brought in to be installed in early January. Large iron beams were also installed on the ground floor near the stairwells.

The grounds were mostly cleared during December as the underground work was finished. A finished section of the fence was installed on the east side of the grounds to test the method of anchoring the fence and to demonstrate how the fence would appear.

All the electrical connections from outside the building were completed and work on the internal systems were well underway. Towards the end of the month, the weather moderated and outside work on pointing the bricks, recommenced.

January 2011

The cold weather forced all the work inside the building during the month of January. The contactors finished installing the underlayment on the roof in order to seal it. They brought in heating units to bring the temperature in the building up to working levels. This allowed them to proceed with plastering the walls, first with the brown coat and then to put on the final, smooth coat which is so smooth it is like a mirror. The work finalized about 90 percent of the final plastering work — what was left could not be done until other final work was completed.

Work on the mechanicals in the mechanical room progressed apace with pumps, electrical and pipes being installed for the HVAC. Also on the ground floor, the chase is being heavily utilized for hiding plumbing, electrical and the like while the offices and functional rooms are taking shape.

The work in the large room on the second floor was largely completed with the huge iron beams (5959) and the columns put in place on the last workday of December and the brickwork support work above the beams finished. When the brickwork was set, the scaffolding was removed and plastering was completed. On the third floor, the brick was reset where the bracing was installed to allow the installation of the beams and returned to original.

Work was also completed on the technically difficult placement and installation of the stairwells. Concrete will be poured into the steps shortly, completing that work.

Individual rooms are starting to look like a finished product and the third floor hallway and rooms are shaping up into the offices that will occupy that floor. Much work has been done to insulate the third floor and the roof in order to assure that the building is airtight for HVAC efficiency.

Work was also substantially begun on refinishing the floors with the original floor being exposed and sanded. That work is time consuming and difficult considering the various layments and coatings used on the floors over the years.

February 2011

The concrete floors in the basement were finished and much of the drywall there was installed. Much of the preliminary work for the HVAC in the mechanicals room was undertaken in preparation for connecting to the geothermal system and the outside (and underground) part of the system. In addition, preparatory work for installing and connecting the heat exchangers in each of the rooms, was begun.

Many of the newly restored and primed windows have been installed. On the exterior, many of the windows were painted in the final color, while exterior repairs to the sills and crowns of the windows, were restored using Jahn Mortar — a Germany product which uses only natural materials. This method allows the technician to apply the mortar directly onto the cleaned surface and then shape the material to conform to the original contours. Since it uses the same stone material as the original pediment or sill, it comes out looking like the it has not been repaired.

On the third floor, heavy duty insulation was piped unto the walls and ceilings, to assure a tightly insulated wall and ceiling for the offices that will occupy that space. The drywall for the individual offices, is nearing completion.

The long process of completing the two staircases, arrived at the final stage when the pouring of the concrete steps was completed. They have also been enclosed with drywall. Finishing materials will not be installed until near the end of the restoration work on the building.

Floors were being stripped and sanded. In most places the original floor will be retained and appear to be in very good shape after first-cut sanding. This work will be on-going for some time. In a major step, the new elevator has been installed and is now in heavy use for transporting materials from the ground into the building.

Lastly, the outside is being prepared for painting, with workers scraping and cleaning the walls, which have all been pointed. The crown moulding has also been restored and, where needed, replaced and has been primed and is being painted.

March 2011

Final connections for the geothermal system were completed and the system's integrity was tested. Work progressed steadily on installing the heating/cooling units in the individual rooms. Room was made in preparation for the installation of the air unit under the roof—a very tight fit.

Finish work on the floors started on the third floor and after sealing the refinished floors, they were covered in heavy paper to protect them from damage. Repairs to the floors were made as they were being restored and refinished, by carefully replacing damaged boards with other boards from areas which would not be used.

Much work was also accomplished on the old staircase, with the bannister and the chair rails being sanded in preparation for final finishing. Samples for the distinctive chair rails on the old staircase were also prepared for final approval.

Bathrooms were also tiled in preparation for installation of the porcelain. Drywall and priming were nearly completed during the month in the third floor rooms, the staircases and on the first and second floors. The ground floor work was partially completed as was the large meeting room on the second floor.

The windows were completely installed and the frames were final sanded and primed, ready for final painting on the inside, while the same was being done outside, with final paint being applied. The finished fence units were delivered and the original fence foundations were exposed in preparation for the installation of the fence. The first sections of the fence were installed on the Tenth Street side.

Outside, the final touch-up for the walls and windows was completed in preparation for applying the new paint. The east elevation was the first to be painted in the new color scheme. The mansard roof was also completed with its new slate tiles. By the end of the month almost half the building had been painted.

April 2011

Some very significant work was completed during the month. First and foremost, the scaffolding was removed after the major part of the exterior painting was done, showing the extraordinary character of the Old Naval Hospital. The beautiful sand color and the shaded red make the building stand out.

The second major accomplishment was completing the roof. First the slate was completely replaced and installed, then the moldings and windows were painted, and lastly the old metal roof was replaced with a new metal roof, installed using the original techniques for this type of roof. The last steps were to reinstall the beautifully restored Widow's Walk and put in a new trap door for access to the roof.

Underneath this roof the third (and last) air conditioning unit was tightly fitted in very close spacing to function as the air handler for the upper floors. There was very little room vertically and longitudinally and only a small space on each side for workers to install it and maintain it.

Notable advances were also made with the fence. On half of the E Street side and on the Tenth Street side of the lot, the fence was put in place. On the more difficult Pennsylvania Avenue side, where a lot of ingenuity was needed to reinstall the fence, there also, good progress was made. At the corner of Tenth and E Streets, a model of the golden corner piece was being fitted.

Floor finishing also reached a crescendo, with nearly all the wood floors being refinished and first-coat sealed—nearly all the floors will be restored rather than replaced. The restored floors date from the turn of the century mostly since they overlay, and were nailed to, the original floors, which ruined the original floors with nail holes and other damage.

The concrete corridor on the ground floor was polished and sealed as was the kitchen floor, which got special treatment given its use. The outside patio on the east side also was redone as were the capstones surrounding that patio.

The water pipes for tap water and for the sprinkler system were brought into the building under, not through, the building's foundation (on the south side near the southeast corner), affording a last look at the original brick foundation of the Old Naval Hospital. It seems extraordinary that the entire building is supported by a not very deep, widened, brick base—but 140 years (and counting) have proved its efficacy.

Views from the roof were spectacular: From there, one can see the Potomac River and all the way to Alexandria, not to mention the views in all the other directions.

May 2011

Work was reaching a crescendo in May as finishing work was undertaken in various areas. But the most unusual element was taking the Gazebo located on the northeast side of the building, off its pedestal and finding what could have been a well underneath. Archeologists were called in to measure and photograph it. Their counsel was to document it and then fill it with dry sand to preserve what is there and place the gazebo over it again, just as it was.

The new east (main) entrance was starting to appear with the work starting on the grounds, including significant landscaping work being begun. Work on the fence was progressing rapidly with installation of most of the sections in place. The rain garden was dug in front of the new main entrance and it is ready for preparation work to begin—starting with filling it with soil.

Inside, the third floor was nearly complete with the rooms getting final touch ups and the hallway being finished. On the second floor, lighting was being installed and completed and some cabinetry was being put in. On the first floor, the corridor appears to be nearly complete, The geothermal HVAC system was tested and turned on after the ground floor air handler was installed. Unlike most mechanical rooms, there is no large boiler—only the air handler and some pipes and pumps. All the heating and cooling are done in each room with the units there using the geothermal heat/cool to raise and lower temperatures. A very green solution for the HVAC.

June 2011

June marked the beginning of the end of the restoration of the Old Naval Hospital and the beginning of the restoration of the landscaping around the building.

On the third floor, the floor for community offices, the final paint was applied, the floors completed and the hardware installed on the doors. That floor is now the bright, airy place that was envisioned by the architect with access from stairs and the elevator. The large central meeting room on the second floor was getting its final coats of finish before final installation of lights, paint and doors. On the first floor, final touches were being made to the lighting in the corner room, while on the ground floor, the concrete floor was polished.

On the outside, the fence was inching to completion with nearly all the sections in place before the final painting and installation of ornamentation on the standards. The final placement of the fence base was underway and secured. The wonderful metal grillwork on the north entrance was also installed with some considerable effort. The grillwork is truly a work of art.

Construction for the bins for the dumpsters was also completed in the southwest corner of the property. At the same time, work was being rapidly completed for the sidewalks, which used a special technique for giving them a pebbled surface, and the preliminary work on landscaping began and progressed rapidly.

On the roof, the grillwork was installed and final painted forming a wonderful widow's walk as it must have been originally, along with newly installed lightning rods. The views from there are spectacular, with familiar Capitol Hill landmarks clearly visible, such as the Marine Commandant's Residence as well as the Capitol and Library of Congress.

July 2011

July was a month of punch lists and finishing up. Starting on the ground floor, the first rooms off the entrance took shape and the corridor looked completed and ready for action. The main stairwell from the ground floor to the first floor was in its final stages, and the new kitchen was nearing completion. The exception was the northeast corner room, with its original brick floor, which needed some final significant work.

On the first floor, the north east corner room was in final shape and beautiful and the main staircase is looking magnificent, with its extensive restoration and repair. All the stylish bathrooms are ready for use too. The restored, original radiators were also installed in the north-south corridor on the first floor. The restored hardware from some of the original doors has also been installed on various doors on the first floor.

On the second floor, the large central room was getting its final plastering and painting, while work was finished on the main east west corridor as it was in the small kitchen off of the northwest corner room. The northeast corner room was sunny and bright in its final stage and the view out of the southeast corner room shows some of the original glass.

On the third floor, the original radiators have been put in place after restoration and the rooms soon to be community organization offices are spectacular. The bright corridor runs the length of the building and there is a small kitchen to serve that floor.

Outside, work on the Carriage House addition was well underway as was the landscaping which would be completed by the end of the month.

This site is sponsored by the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital

The webmaster is Dan Daly(

Last updated July 22, 2011