John J. Earley Mosaic

US Department of Justice, Washington, DC

Built between 1931 and 1935, the US Department of Justice, also known as the Robert F. Kennedy Building, melds Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival decorative elements into its Beaux Arts plan. Extraordinary mosaic pre-cast concrete ceilings by John Joseph Earley, and decorative doors and gates in aluminum and iron, designed by the architects Zantzinger, Borie and Medary and the sculptor Paul Jennewein, enliven the massive limestone structure.

The ceilings over the autoways into the interior courtyard are enlivened by vast mosaics, crafted by innovator in decorative polychrome concrete panels, John Joseph Earley, The vibrant colors had become soiled overall with atmospheric deposits and automotive exhaust. Tenacious local stains were present as well. The mosaics also exhibited damage from previous interventions, including significant paint overspray and burn marks.

In 2005, we cleaned these vast mosaic ceilings. The mosaics were carefully cleaned of soiling and paint accumulations using steam, detergents and solvents. Persistent marks were treated locally with stain-specific chemicals and mechanically loosened with detail brushes. We worked at length with security staff to ensure extensive site protection was employed and to stage work so that it would pose minimum disruption to the sensitive operations of the building.