Art Deco Bronze Doors Conservation—Nashville Metropolitan Courthouse
The main entrance to the Metropolitan Courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee, consists of three sets of heroic-scaled bronze doors. These double doors, each over five feet wide and twenty-one feet tall, are wonderful examples of the Art Deco artistry integrated into government buildings during the Works Progress Administration (WPA) period. Installed in 1934, the massive iron channel frames are faced with bronze sheet panels enlivened with decorative bosses and sculptures. The medieval dressed figures represent virtues associated with the courthouse functions.
Like many of these constructions, insufficient maintenance and long term use had compromised their condition and operation. Original locks and latches no longer worked and several of their door hinges were frozen. Inappropriate hardware had been applied to replace the damaged originals’ functions. The doors were uncoated and their patina was beginning to change from oxidation and exposure to de-icing salts.
In 2006, we were contracted to restore the three sets of bronze doors. The doors were stabilized in place and the facing panels were removed. Locks, hinges, throw bolts and hardware were removed, rehabilitated, and reinstalled. Missing rosettes and false rivet heads were recreated in bronze and mounted. Hinge pins were cleaned, realigned and operations were restored to all doors. All surfaces were cleaned, painted to an even deep brown bronze tone, and coated with lacquer. Work was completed in 2006 as part of the overall restoration of the building and surrounding plaza.