The Conway Public Library is a circa 1900, one-story, Neo-Classical-style masonry building designed by Boston architect Thomas W. Silloway. The original Library massing has mass brick masonry walls on a raised foundation of gray granite and the window openings have brownstone lintels and sills. The original primary facade was designed with a brownstone portico supported by Ionic columns. The roof is slate, with a clock tower, cornices, cresting and other trim of pressed sheet copper.
It was a moment of tragedy for our institution and remains so today. A truck crashed into our historic building, killing one person and destroying multiple brownstone columns that had adorned our building since its opening, 122 years prior. As the Director of the Conway Public Library, I knew we needed to find a firm to run the repair process who possessed an understanding of, and sensitivity to, the unique characteristics of working on a historic structure such as ours, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Barba + Wheelock is that firm and I can not recommend them highly enough. They have been a “rock steady” partner and have displayed a high level of professionalism and expertise to their craft. Liz Reynolds has been a great partner for our project. Her background fit our needs perfectly and she has displayed great work habits. I recommend Liz and B+W in general without reservation.
– David Smolen, Director, Conway Public Library
B+W’s design phase of the project included research of cleaning and repair products and vetting options for placing the brownstone columns and pilaster that each broke into several pieces. It is preferable to reuse original material wherever possible, but after careful review and discussion about the broken brownstone elements, we determined that attempting to rebuild the columns from the broken pieces would be extremely challenging, have long-term performance issues, and would be aesthetically displeasing. B+W understands that brownstone is not quarried in the United States anymore, therefore they looked into other alternatives including shipping sandstone in from abroad, coating another natural material, limestone, to replicate the appearance of brownstone, and replacing with cast stone columns.
B+W determined the best solution was to have replica columns cast in colored cast stone to replicate the brownstone. It was very important to the client that the columns be replicated in one monolithic unit, as the original, nearly 14 foot tall, columns consisted of one continuous piece of brownstone each.