When C.H. Alexander built his 12,500-square-foot mansion in Dallas in 1904, the city did not have electricity, so he placed a generator in his backyard to power the home. Soon thereafter, Alexander helped the city evolve from horse-drawn buggies to streetcars when he formed the Dallas Consolidated Electric Street Railway using 27 miles of track and seven cable cars.
In 1930, the mansion was purchased by the Dallas Woman's Forum, a nonprofit organization whose mission, purpose and goals are to empower women and children through education and advocacy. In 1968, the mansion was awarded a Texas state historical marker and is the last remaining stately mansion in its original form along Ross Avenue.
Designed by skyscraper builders Sanguinet & Staats from Fort Worth, the mansion features seven fireplaces, oak and mahogany wood paneling, hand-carved moldings, mother-of-pearl inlays on doors and windows, a 10-foot-tall Tiffany glass-inspired window depicting a grape arbor in the entryway, and columns crafted in Italian marble.
In 2016, the Dallas Woman's Forum began fully renovating Alexander Mansion. The renovation will include structural repairs, restoring mosaic tiles, rehabilitating stained glass, refurbishing crown moldings and other significant repairs in addition to a new roof system installed by Texas Roof Management Inc., Richardson.
Funding the project
Before beginning major building renovations, Dallas Woman's Forum wanted to replace the mansion's roof system to ensure a watertight structure. Unfortunately, the organization didn't have the funds to pay for the $178,000 roofing project, so Texas Roof Management decided to help.
"When Mike Cogburn of Arnold and Associates contacted us to assist in the restoration of the roof system, the Alexander Mansion was literally falling apart," says Kelly Lea, general manager for Texas Roof Management. "The northeast wall was cracking and about to fall away from the building because of structural issues, and moisture originating from roof leaks had all but destroyed the interior of the mansion. Members of the Dallas Woman's Forum were distressed at the thought of losing the mansion to moisture and structure damage."
To help provide a safe and comfortable home for the Dallas Woman's Forum community, Texas Roof Management along with Arnold and Associates Inc., Addison, Texas, the project's consultant; Frontier Waterproofing Inc., Denton, Texas; and Siplast,® Irving, Texas, partnered to begin the roof renovation process.
Texas Roof Management's donated work included installing a new two-ply polymer-modified bitumen roof system and metal flashings, repairs to the roof deck and parapet walls, and rebuilding an existing skylight.
In November 2017, Texas Roof Management workers removed the existing roof system that consisted of coated aluminum and smooth-surfaced polymer-modified bitumen over multiple layers of asphalt down to the wooden deck. Given the building's age, the crew was confronted with structural damage to the lower deck areas and rafter tails. Texas Roof Management workers rebuilt much of the wooden deck with lumber to match the original wood.
Next, the crew applied a Siplast self-adhering base sheet of Paradiene 20 TS SA, two layers of Siplast polyisocyanurate insulation rated R-25 to meet code and one layer of 1/2-inch-thick DensDeck® Roof Boards using Paraseal® Parastick 'n' Dry® adhesive. Using a torch, workers then adhered one ply of Paradiene 20 TG followed by one ply of Paradiene 30 FR (fire-rated) TG polymer-modified bitumen membrane.
On the exterior parapet walls, workers applied a Siplast self-adhering base sheet Paradiene 20 TS SA (sanded), mechanically attached a layer of Siplast Parabase and adhered one ply of Paradiene 20 TG followed by Siplast Veral Aluminum. The wall flashing was terminated 6 feet above the roof's field.
"Additionally, we found a hidden built-in gutter with a return metal fascia," Lea says. "To meet code, we added 4 1/2 inches of polyisocyanurate insulation while maintaining the original historical appearance using lumber and trim to match the existing appearance."
The original skylight located on the highest roof level was in extremely poor condition, requiring the removal of the entire fixture and temporarily waterproofing the roof opening with Paradiene 20 TS SA. Workers then deconstructed the skylight and rebuilt a majority of the pieces.
"This proved to be quite a challenge because we wanted to maintain the appearance of the original skylight," Lea says. "For safety concerns, the original wire glass had to be removed and replaced with laminate safety glass. After reassembling, we painted the frame with a TNEMEC coating to ensure the skylight's longevity."
Multiple fences, the position of the mansion's driveway and sensitive landscaping made access to Alexander Mansion extremely limited. A plywood barrier was constructed around the large, old oak trees on the property's northeast side to protect them throughout the project's duration, making the material loading process difficult.
"The canopy of the trees restricted our access to the roof areas on that side of the building, requiring us to access those areas from the opposite side of the building and over adjacent roof areas," Lea says.
Because the roof had six levels of varying heights, workers added ladders to provide access to previously inaccessible areas.
"Many of the roof areas were relatively small, so working around the ladders proved to be a challenge," Lea says.
The lower roof canopies also were limited in space and structurally unstable.
"The canopies were cantilevered with no additional structural support," Lea explains. "Our workers were tied-off while working on the canopies and exercised extreme care to avoid damaging these areas of the building. Additionally, our safety director made regular safety audits of the project, and our project superintendent and foreman ensured the workplace was safe."
As a result of Texas Roof Management's diligence to safety, there were no injuries or loss of work during the project's duration.
A rare jewel preserved
In January 2018, Texas Roof Management completed its roofing work on Dallas Woman's Forum's mansion, achieving its highest priority of producing a superior quality roof system.
"We monitored and achieved our quality objectives by close on-site supervision and management, along with daily reports and weekly project meetings," Lea says. "Arnold and Associates also performed periodic inspections throughout the project's duration, and Texas Roof Management received a 'no correction' final roof inspection upon completion of the project."
Because of Texas Roof Management's attention to detail, safety and quality, the Alexander Mansion remains a major historical landmark in the Dallas community and now stands as a beacon for rebirth in the neighborhood. Additionally, all the roofing work was donated by Texas Roof Management and its charitable team.
"Working with Siplast, Frontier Waterproofing, and Arnold and Associates, these companies brought their own talents and provided materials for the project," Lea says. "As a 100 percent women-owned business, we are honored to provide service for this unique and historically influential group of women and honored to have helped them in the first phase of their building's renovation."
After Alexander Mansion's renovations are complete, the Dallas Woman's Forum plans to open the mansion to the Dallas community as a resource for learning about Dallas history.
"Texas Roof Management saved an historical Dallas landmark from sure destruction," says Wanda Hensley, president of the board for Dallas Woman's Forum. "Without the replacement of the 50-year-old roof, the mansion would have deteriorated to the point it would have been at risk for demolition. Texas Roof Management came to the rescue and donated much of their time, labor and materials to replace the rather complex roof and eliminate all the leaks. Without the incredible support of the Texas Roof Management team, we would have been unable to repair and preserve one of Dallas' rare jewels."
Project name: Alexander Mansion at Dallas Woman's Forum
Project location: Dallas
Project duration: November 2017-January 2018
Roof system type: Polymer-modified bitumen
Roofing contractor: Texas Roof Management Inc., Richardson
Roofing manufacturers: ARCAT Inc., Kansas City, Mo.; Frontier Waterproofing Inc., Denton, Texas; Georgia-Pacific Building Products, Atlanta; Siplast, Irving, Texas; Tremco® Inc., Beachwood, Ohio