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F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing Co. Inc., Milwaukee, a Tecta America company, recently restored the roof system on Milwaukee's City Hall. Completion of the 3 1/2-year project was marked with a December 2008 ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the $70 million restoration of the 113-year-old building.
As a National Historic Landmark, the building's original elements had to be maintained or restored, including ornate and decorative panels that were worn out or missing.
Although original drawings and plans facilitated replacement of architectural elements, installation wasn't always easy.
The ornate elements of the building's German Renaissance design are especially visible in its top elevations and towers, where F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing performed roofing and sheet-metal work. Much of that work was on the iconic south tower, which is 350 feet high and houses a 22,000-pound bell and four clock faces. A steep-slope copper-clad roof system rises from the clock dormers, and a circular cupola with a balustrade and lantern cap off the tower. The copper roof system was replaced, and numerous decorative copper elements were refabricated to match the original pieces.
The steep-slope portion of the south tower originally was covered with slate, which was replaced with copper sheets in 1923. The original terra cotta pinnacles at the tower also had been replaced with copper in 1928.
In addition, F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing replaced copper cladding, substrate and decorative elements on the smaller north tower, which includes a cupola and lantern with decorative elements. About 115,000 pounds of copper were used on the project overall.
The slate roof system on the main portion of the building had been replaced in 1973-74. That area rises to a copper coping at a low-slope roof over the center of City Hall.
F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing's work was part of a massive project under general contractor J.P Cullen & Sons, Janesville, Wis., which involved renovation of worn sandstone, deteriorating bricks, terra cotta sculptures and nearly 2,000 windows.
When the building was completed in 1895, it was one of the tallest structures in the U.S., third only to the Washington Monument and Philadelphia's City Hall. Although that distinction has long since passed, the building remains one of the most ornate city halls in the U.S. and continues to be a source of pride for Milwaukee residents, as well as the craftsmen who helped restore it.
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