Library Reading Room Lay Light Restoration

Daughters of the American Revolution National Headquarters, Washington, DC

Project Details

$2 million
Completed June 2013

Quinn Evans Architects

Femenella & Associates

The Christman Company

Daughters of the American Revolution

Images © Quinn Evans Architects

Founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, DC, DAR is a non-profit women’s service organization whose objectives are historic preservation, education, and patriotism. The National Society Headquarters buildings, Memorial Continental Hall (MCH), Constitution Hall, and the Administration Building, are National Historic Landmarks. MCH was designed in 1905 by Edward Pearce Casey and completed in 1910. The main space of MCH is the Library which is enclosed by a leaded glass lay light lit. The lay light consists of 25 large panels approximately 8’-0” x 9’-0”. Nearby are two 10’-0” x 12’-0” lay light panels over the stairs.

After an investigation in 2012 related to the August 2011, 5.7 magnitude, seismic event, the Library’s lay lights showed signs of deterioration and earthquake damage that required immediate and extensive restoration to preserve the 105-year-old delicate glasswork. While the investigation found that the lay light was not seriously damaged by the earthquake, its overall condition was precarious. A survey of existing conditions revealed broken glass, deflection, staining, UV solarization, etc. Extreme displacement from gravity, high heat, moisture, and previous improper repairs had added stress and cracks in the lay light panels as well as the cracks near supportive steel beams. A structural analysis of the existing steel trusses that supported the skylight and lay light was evaluated. A report of recommendations based on the preservation of historic material, safety, and cost helped evaluate and select the appropriate preservation treatment.

The restoration project of all 27 panels was a careful endeavor requiring the expertise of leading specialists. The lay light panels were restored by salvaging 90% of the original glass. Additional support bars were added to provide greater structural capacity. Each panel was then slowly hoisted up through the Library for reinstallation.

2014 District of Columbia Historic Preservation Award, Design & Construction

Categories: Libraries, Historic Preservation, Special Structures