An arsonist’s fire left the Mill in ruins and TTMAC with a choice: Preservation, Conservation or Restoration.
Shortly after the devastating 1998 arson that gutted the historic Chapman – Beverley Mill, members of the Turn the Mill Around Campaign had to make a decision. With the Mill now in ruins, what would be the aim of the organization – to conserve, preserve or restore the Mill? After speaking with structural engineers and finding that restoration was impossible due to the weakened state of the stone in the walls, TTMAC embarked on an effort to conserve and then preserve the Mill in its ruined state. But what does that all mean?
Read Karen Kroslowitz’s article ‘Preservation, Conservation, Restoration: What’s the Difference?’ for definitions of each term.
Here at the Mill, the stabilization of the structure’s walls, completed in 2006, is like a form of interventive conservation. The goal of the internal anchoring system is simply to mitigate the existing damage and to enable the Mill’s walls to safely stand without further stone loss.
The lead sheeting that you see on the Mill’s windowsills is a form of preventive preservation. Its function is to prevent water from seeping into the walls, the freezing and thawing of which would result in additional stone fracturing.
While the Mill will never be restored to its former glory, it remains preserved as a testament to Northern Virginia’s agricultural history.
The stabilized Mill walls.
As we stand in the Mill, staring up at the remaining five stories of loose stones that make up the structure’s walls, one of the most common questions we get during tours has to do with the earthquake that shook our region in late August 2011. How badly was the Mill damaged? How many stones fell?
The short answer is that there was no additional damage and that the walls stayed firmly in place. But that was only possible due to the remarkable stabilization of the Mill made possible by Cintec America.
The 1998 arson that all but destroyed the Mill, left its walls incredibly fragile. Rather than attempt to restore the Mill – a prospect that structural engineers have cautioned against – Turn the Mill Around Campaign chose to preserve the structure as a ruin. But how could it be made safe for the public to enjoy? TTMAC contacted numerous conservation firms, hearing again and again ‘It can’t be done,’ until we finally discovered Cintec.
Cintec’s unique stabilization system, originally developed in Europe for historic castle ruins, was accomplished first by drilling through the stone walls from the top down, inserting a threaded rod covered by a long fabric tube into the void left by the drill, and then injecting the tube with a mortar-like compound. Finally, they installed a series of cross beams. The whole process of stabilizing all four of the Mill’s walls took over two years to complete, but the results are walls that resist both side to side and inward and outward motion.
Thanks to innovations in conservation, our Mill has been preserved for many years to come. Be sure to visit us soon!
How tall is this Mill again?
The Chapman – Beverley Mill is thought to be the tallest stacked stone structure in the U.S., but how tall is it? Look around the web and you’ll see the Mill cited as anywhere from four to seven stories. So, why all the confusion? Well, we can boil it down to two factors: the 1998 arson and slope.
Let’s deal with the arson first. When the Mill burned in 1998, the gable ends of the structure were badly weakened. The decision was made that for the safety of those fighting the fire, the gables must be removed. So, using fire hoses, they were knocked down. What remains of the ends is one story shorter than the Mill originally stood.
Now, let’s consider slope. As it approaches Broad Run, the land slopes considerably downward. The result is that the Mill’s eastern wall is approximately 1.5 stories shorter than the western wall.
So, when you put it all together, the Mill walls originally stood a staggering 7 stories high on the west and 5.5 stories high on the east! They currently stand at 6.5 stories and 5 stories respectively.
And since we’ve come this far, here are a few more facts and figures:
- The Mill is about 50 feet long and 40 feet wide.
- Its walls are 6 feet thick at the bottom and 2 feet thick at the top.
- They contain roughly 1,522 cubic yards of stacked quartzite stone.
- They weigh approximately 3,500 tons!
Stabilizing the Chapman – Beverley Mill Walls
Turn the Mill Around Campaign faced a very big problem when it took over management of the Mill in 1998. The fire that year had left the walls of the structure fragile and in danger of collapse. TTMAC contacted numerous companies about stabilizing the ruins, but each considered the walls too delicate to save.
Workers Installing Cintec Anchors
Finally, TTMAC contacted Cintec, a preservation business known for stabilizing European castle ruins. Cintec devised a plan to strengthen the walls one at a time. Beginning on the South wall (the most fragile), Cintec workers drilled down through the wall from top to bottom inserting a strengthening rod and filling the void with a mortar-like substance. The South wall was completed in 2004 and by 2006 the whole structure had undergone the Cintec internal anchoring system process!
For an in-depth explanation of how Cintec anchors work and how they’re installed, take a look at the stabilization of the Baltimore Basilica.
Master Plan for the Mill
Since TTMAC received the Chapman – Beverley Mill property shortly after the 1998 arson that nearly destroyed the structure, the campaign has striven to both preserve the Mill and make it accessible to the public. Our first order of business was to stabilize the Mill structure (Look out for a blog post on stabilization techniques soon!). With stabilization completed in the mid-2000’s, we looked to discover more about the site through archaeology. Now, with our archaeological study underway, we seek to share all that we’ve learnt with the public!
Beginning in the spring or summer of 2015, TTMAC will start improving the Mill site — adding walking paths, informational signage and hopefully increasing hours of access. The image that accompanies this post is an early rendering of TTMAC’s master plan for the site. The plan has changed slightly since this drawing was created, but we hope you’ll take a minute to examine it. It gives a great sneak peak at some of the developments you can expect to see when you visit the Mill in the coming months. And once you’ve taken a look, let us know what you think! Leave a comment below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy 2015 everyone!