Finance Building, Capitol Complex,
This project involved the preservation of four luminaires and poles attributed to the noted artist C. Paul Jennewein, from 1939, but most likely manufactured by Curtis Lighting of Chicago from designs by Walter Kantack. A preservation differs from a restoration in that the object is to save as much as possible of the original piece, and arrest or slow the rate of deterioration. This task was complicated by damage sustained when one of the twenty-five foot poles failed in 1990, severely deforming one of the luminaire heads. The remaining units were removed for safety reasons and stored for ten years. More damage occurred during this period. These photos show the condition of the fixtures the when we were first involved.
The decorative brass sleeves attributed to C. Paul Jennewein were scratched and, in this case, severely abraded. The figure was re-contoured and the patina was repaired by John Philips.
This is how the poles were stored before we took possession. Please note that the pole on the left is bent. The pole shaft below the top of the brass sleeve was a steel pipe welded to the stainless steel shaft. The rusting steel pipe under the brass sleeve swelled to make the sleeve removal a difficult procedure.
We had analyzed the damaged fixture, the #1 fixture, because we needed to assess the level of damage, and we also started to repair this unit before restoring the others because we felt that the others were less of a challenge than the #1 unit.
However, two of the other units had something that the #1 unit didn't have. This little waterborne decal under the mounting pedestal. It proved that the aluminum had been treated under the alzak process
This had not been anticipated by anybody. The spinnings were rather badly corroded, and even perforated on a few small spots. The spinnings, a lid and a reflector, needed to have the corrosion removed. However, since the chemical analysis had shown no evidence of anodizing, there was a reluctance to allow any protective surface treatment. After the discovery of this decal, we were able to persuade the state that, since there was a surface treatment originally, that there should be one now.
These units were of stainless steel, brass and aluminum. The stainless would fare well on it's own and the brass would be cared for on an annual basis. The aluminum, which supported the entire luminaire head would deteriorate over the next 40 or 50 years and disappear. In addition, these units are a functioning piece of art. the reflectors were expected to help light the plaza. If left alone, the blackish corrosion would return soon.
Re-applying the Alzak process would show off the many pits and surface defects now present in the aluminum. Anodizing would be more of a matte finish, hiding the defects. It would also provide a reasonable reflectance and afford a measure of protection.
Removal of the brass sleeves from the poles proved to be our most difficult task. The poles had originally had lead wool packed into the gap between the sleeve and the stainless steel pole. this prevented water from entering the gap and causing the steel pipe below to rust. One pole had no lead wool and this sleeve was the most difficult to remove.
We fabricated a pair of steel plates. to which we attached a pair of come-alongs, in order to press the sleeve off of the pipe. The sleeve didn't budge. Next, we tried wrapping the end of the sleeve with heat ropes which we erroneously hoped would melt any remaining lead wool and allow the sleeve to slide off. After reaching 500 degrees F., we decided that there was no lead wool and that rust must be the culprit.
We finally removed the sleeve with a combination of methods. first, we hung the pole up-side down and filed the gap with penetrating oil. Next, we imparted a vibration to the pole by clamping the end to the bed of our vibratory finisher. After an hour of vibration to help the oil to penetrate and break up the rust, we attached the heat ropes and come-alongs again. The expansion afforded by the heat ropes was just enough to tip the balance in our favor. In the photo below, note that the rusty portion of the pole is noticeably thicker than the stainless portion.
Repairing the damaged aluminum spinnings was not as difficult as it may look but it was time consuming. A few torn and missing areas had to be welded and ground.
One of the existing Halothane #4333 lenses, obsolete for decades, was missing and presumed lost. We began a search which took well over one hundred man-hours over a four month period. We spent most of that time finding and contacting historic lighting fixture dealers across the country before we found one.
Our contract called for Klemm to retain the services of an art conservator to research the pieces, make recommendations to the Capitol Preservation Committee (CPC) regarding the scope of the preservation, to oversee the preservation process and prepare a final report with recommendations for the continuing preservation of the pieces. We chose to work with Scott Kreilick, of Kreilick Conservation. Scott's thorough and conscientious approach to his work were instrumental to the success of this project. We could not have chosen better.