Coral Stone Conservation Testing—Coral Gables Museum—Private

Coral Gables, FL

Coral Gables, “The City Beautiful” was planned and developed during Miami’s land boom in the 1920’s and immediately became an icon of the good life that Florida promised. The Coral Gables Fire and Police Station was built in 1936. The unique solid ashlar coral stone structure is embellished with decorative pre-cast concrete panel.

The conversion of this building to a museum represented a challenge to the project designers. The coral stone and Cuban tiles have deteriorated due to moisture infiltration. The porous nature of the stone makes the museum’s goal of providing climate controlled exhibition spaces challenging. The stone’s texture, along with its predilection for staying moist, also made the exterior hospitable the accumulation of soiling, biological and vegetative growth.

We were contracted to help develop procedures to restore the masonry structure. Following an extensive survey and assessment, a series of treatment mock-ups were implemented. A combination of detergents and biocides were identified to remove soiling and biota. Conservators demonstrated methods to carefully remove non-historic coatings over sensitive surfaces and repair the Cuban Tile wainscoting. Selective probes were undertaken to reveal historic graffiti in the jail cells. A system of lime-based fills to limit water infiltration through the coral stone ashlar was tested and refined. Low-toxicity and natural products were emphasized in this LEED-certified project.