Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

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Hyde Park, NY

Client: Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site, National Park Service

Project Type: Restoration; Historic Structure Report; Historic Furnishings Report

The Vanderbilt Mansion is one of the premier “Gilded Age” mansions in the United States. Designed by McKim, Mead and White, the most prominent architectural firm in the United States at the time, it was constructed in 1897. Overlooking the Hudson River, the home contains 54 rooms with ornate decorative finishes and original furnishings. It is operated as a historic house museum by the National Park Service as part of Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site. Along with the mansion, the Vanderbilt property consists of 600 landscaped areas and half a dozen other buildings including the Vanderbilt Pavilion, a house also designed by McKim, Mead and White where the family lived while the mansion was under construction.

Despite careful maintenance of the Vanderbilt site, moisture leaks appeared as early as the 1960s, and NPS made isolated repairs to the exterior. By 2008, these efforts were no longer effective. Extensive leaking had damaged some of the exhibited rooms as well as the rooms on the basement and third floor. Moreover, the exterior stone suffered from botanical growth and carbon staining. The portico’s stone steps and paving were seriously deteriorated.

JGWA’s comprehensive conditions survey of the exterior led to a full exterior restoration, conducted in two phases (2015-16 and 2016-18); this work included masonry cleaning, limited repointing, and repairs. Window sash, doors, light fixtures, and railings were all restored. In the first phase, which dealt with the work below the water table, lightweight concrete support systems replaced the severely deteriorated structural systems for the porticos; similar lightweight concrete replaced the fill under the portico steps. The foundation was excavated and waterproofing installed. The later phase completed the waterproofing, as well as restoration of the architectural elements above the water table. The completion of this work marked the first major exterior construction work since the mansion was built.

Concurrently, JGWA completed a nine-volume historic structure report and a three-volume comprehensive historic furnishings report of the iconic structure.