Cast Iron Capitals & Fragments

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

The cast iron capitals and fragments in the collection of the University of Virginia are significant architectural elements, among the few surviving remnants of the former Rotunda Annex. The Annex, built onto the north façade in 1853, had been designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument. Faulty electrical wiring destroyed it in a fire in 1895. These elements, however, continue to embody the design aesthetic and classical, visual iconography inherent to the University.

The five capitals have been displayed in shaded, damp garden settings on campus for an unknown period of time. Without any supplemental protection, they have been vulnerable to a range of weather-related deterioration, including soiling, flaking, and cracking. In addition, the capitals display structural instability resulting from inadequate support, and broken elements. Fragments are currently distributed among several storage locations, and tend to exhibit slightly less surface deterioration and retain more coatings, although their exact provenance is unknown.

We were contracted to perform a condition assessment and make recommendations for treatment to the five capitals and numerous fragments in various locations across campus. Survey work involved on-site examination as well as subsequent testing in the studio to compare treatment options. Final treatment recommendations were then proposed based on a realistic projection of maintenance goals and budget defined by the client. We undertook the conservation of the artifacts the following year once funding was procured by the client.