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Stolen Stair Rail

Stolen Stair Rail

Schiff Architectural Detail, known for historical restoration and replication, was called in on a consultant basis to evaluate damage to a 1930’s Bronze Beaux Art style stair rail system in a former Post Office in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Designed when the government was flush on cash from the new Federal Income Tax, strategic bronze metal, Italian marble and sculptured plaster were lavishly used within this Federal Building. A little know part of our governments building plan was the use of “strategic metals” to provide ready stocks of war materials. Bronze, a favorite metal was used for ship propellers and artillery shell castings. Here in this building it was used in doors, windows, radiator guards and the “Crime Scene Victim a gorgeous Stair Rail

Recently, however the building was acquired by the State to be added to a campus of a nearby Community College. The architect on the project recognized the value of restoring the lobby and specified restoration of all bronze.

Unfortunately, late into the night a brawny and determined thief made his way onto the job-site where he dismantled and hauled away approximately half of the bronze stair rail system.

Recovered from a trip to the local scrap yard where the loot had already been fed to the Alligator Jaws only 10% of the rescued materials brought back were usable. Site measurements and old plan drawings were used to determine the extent of the loss. The reported scrap value paid to the perpetrator was $600. To the building owner, the missing stair rail value was priceless.

Schiff presented the restoration plan to the interested parties, restoration contractor, state, and most importantly, the insurance claim department. As might be expected the project cost was a “whistler” but the evidence presented was so compelling and unique, that, after research by the insurance company the claim was settled and the project awarded to Schiff Architectural Detail.

Nearly every component used in the system including the volute, handrail, several different pickets, column caps, and finials would need to be reproduced. Inquiries through our network of foundries sent us overseas for the reproduction of the bronze handrail. All else, required patterns and mold making for all new castings In our search, we discovered that those artisans and foundries have disappeared over the last 70 years.

The knowledge, however, is not gone. Schiff Architectural Detail was able to find and develop the necessary capabilities in-house and around the world to reproduce the missing components. With all the components accounted for Schiff Architectural Detail developed a comprehensive restoration plan that solved the mystery of not …“who” but “how”.

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