Brick and Stone Preservation

Brick Wall
As during the two centuries the U.S. Army used Fort Jay and Castle Williams,the bricks, stones and mortar require constant care and upkeep.
Historic Preservation Training Center

The National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center is dedicated to the idea that historic building preservation education requires a hands-on experience with a wide variety of materials and places and materials to become a journeyman preservation practitioner. The center established in 1977, meets the growing demand for craft skills development for National Park Service employees working to preserve thousands of historic structures within the National Park System.

gambrill house
The National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center is located in the Gambrill house on the Monocacy National Battlefield, a Civil War battlefield park located near Frederick, Maryland. It is shown here as it was near the turn of the century

The Historic Preservation Training Center’ mission statement seeks to accomplish the safe preservation and maintenance of national parks or partner facilities by demonstrating outstanding leadership, delivering quality preservation services and developing educational courses that fulfill the competency requirements of Service employees in the career fields of Historic Preservation Skills, risk Management, Maintenance, and planning, Design and construction. In 1995, the Center joined the NPS Training and Development Division to become one of four NPS training Centers. The Historic Preservation training Center is currently located in Frederick Maryland.


The Center provides services often not available at remote sites or of such a specialized nature that managers value the coordinated efforts of preservation through one source. As part of the National Park Service, the Historic Preservation Training center also develops partnerships with other Federal, State, and local agencies responsible for the stewardship of historically significant cultural resources. On average, 60 preservation projects are undertaken by the Center each year. As a result of over 1000 completed projects, the Historic Preservation Training Center has become a leader in historic preservation and is recognized for quality preservation and craftsmanship.

Funding to purchase the lintel replacement came from a Spike Lee television pilot.
Funding to purchase the lintel replacement stone came from a 2007 filming permit from a Spike Lee television pilot about the mayor of New York City. Lee at bottom right keeps in touch with his production office on a cold February day from the movie set outside Castle Williams.

In 2007 the Historic Preservation Training Center crew to Governors Island to accomplish two critical masonry repair projects at Fort Jay and Castle Williams. The crew replaced one of the embrasure lintels at Castle Williams which had cracked and was failing to fully support the stones above it. The second project repaired a failing chimney at Fort Jay which had been struck by lightning between 2001 and 2002. These projects helped train preservation crafts people by giving them hands on experience in a unique, challenging and remote urban environment to preserve historic resources and help promote historic preservation as a means of keeping our past alive for future generations to enjoy.

undefThe 12th Infantry band in 1896 in front of Fort Jay. ined
The 12th Infantry band in 1896 in front of Fort Jay.
lightning damaged chimney
Failing chimney at Fort Jay Struck by lightning between 2001 and 2002.

Fort Jay Chimney Repair

In order to access the chimney above Quarters 206 A, the preservation crew had to erect scaffolding. This allowed not only the crew to access the roof and provided them a safe and level working area around the chimney, it also made it possible to move debris off the roof and to bring up new bricks and mortar to make the repairs.

With the access problem solved, the deconstruction of the damaged brick begins, taking the chimney back to solid construction. As much of the original brick was retained as possible and the original pattern and width of mortar joints was replicated. Knowing that new brick was required, project planners looked carefully for modern equivalents on the market today before the crew arrived and had them on hand as the project started.

A new concrete cap was formed on top of the chimney to protect it from water infiltration and adding another 70-80 years to the life of the repair work.

Repaired Lintel
When Castle Williams was constructed from 1807 to 1811, each stone mason had his own unique texture or finishing style for the stones they worked. The preservation crew replicated the pattern on the new lintel.

Castle Williams Lintel Replacement

The cracked lintel had to be removed in such a way that the stones above it would still remain supported.

Next, scaffolding to hold a hoist was constructed to lift the several hundred pound block of sandstone. A set of sliding rails was devised allow the crew to slide the stone into the now empty niche.

Next the stone was tooled to replicate the texture and finish that some unknown stone carver had placed on the original stone between 1808 and 1809.

This project lasted three weeks and provided valuable experience for the team in a unique historical setting. It is also important to note that a new generation of preservation crafts people are being trained in masonry techniques and that women who made up the class of historic masons who worked these two projects are finding their place in what has been traditionally male trade.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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