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Rochester City Hall

Location: Rochester, New York

Notable Architects: Harvey and Charles Ellis

Period: 1885 - 1889

National Register of Historic Places

Rochester City Hall was constructed in 1885 to 1889 as a federal courthouse and post office, designed in the Richardson Romanesque style by Harvey and Charles Ellis in association with federal architects (and Architects of Record) Mifflin E. Bell and Will A. Freret.  Located in the center of downtown, it is one of the contributing historic structures in a city with a rich architectural heritage.  The building was designed with masonry bearing wall construction and iron or steel interior framing.  Exterior wall construction consists of heavy brick masonry bearing walls with sandstone exterior sheathed of Portland Brownstone from the Connecticut River Valley.


The majority of the exterior sandstone wall surfaces consist of fields of rock-faced ashlar, highlighted with dressed stone arches, band courses and other articulated features.  The contrast in the two finish techniques liven the otherwise monochrome building facade.  The building possesses a significant amount of detailed carvings consisting of human face figures and organic vine and leaf elements.  All stone elements exhibited various levels of deterioration from inherent characteristics of the stone.  


MCWB was hired to undertake the restoration of the stone masonry facades.  In August of 2007, MCWB performed a comprehensive exterior stone survey of the main building.  Inspection of each stone was performed using acrylic hammers for sound resonance, along with visual observation.  Core samples were extracted to perform laboratory testing including stone petrography and mortar analysis.  The condition of approximately 12,000 stones on the building were translated to survey information sheets diagramming a series of levels of deterioration.  


Selective replacement of cornices, window sills, arches, and decorative band courses were replaced and fabricated from new St. Matieu sandstone.  The quarry, located in Quebec, Canada, provided superior durability compared to the original stone and a reliable source for future campaigns.  This stone will provide the desired longevity especially for decorative carved elements of the building.  A pigmented mineral stain was used to color match the new stone to the original, maintaining the monochromatic scheme of the building.  The original stone rooftop loggia that housed the building exhaust system was removed and reconstructed under this construction campaign.  Other areas of the facade restoration included re-tooling many areas of existing sandstone and re-pointing the entire building.

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