Category: Historic Restoration
Location: Denver, CO
Size: 230,210 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: 130 tons of new sandstone were purchased. Masonry types include brick pavers, plaster and sandstone.
Submitted by: Building Restoration Specialties, Inc.

Project Description

Restoring, "one of the nation's finest and most intact examples of City Beautiful-style park designs,"[1] presented some unique challenges for masonry contractor Building Restoration Specialties, Inc., (BRS). To return the Civic Center Park in the heart of Denver to its original glory, BRS had to preserve and reuse as much original stone and masonry as possible and find suitable substitutes for what could not be saved.

For the Greek amphitheater at the south end of the twelve-acre park, this meant removing and salvaging the historic brick pavers for reinstallation. First BRS documented the herringbone design created by the maroon, red and brown bricks. They saw cut around each paver and carefully hand-chiseled them to avoid breakage. They sawed the mortar off the bottom, cleaned them and loaded them onto pallets numbered by location so they could be reinstalled in the proper pattern. After the substrate was regraded for drainage and a waterproof membrane put in place, the pavers were reinstalled to recreate the original design. Not all the pavers could be reused, but replacements were confined to discrete areas where visual contrast was minimized. Molding was reproduced and installed where damaged plaster had to be removed.

The original rail and balusters of Civic Center's graceful balustrade walls were carved of beautifully veined sandstone from the now-closed Turkey Creek quarry near Ft. Carson, Colorado. Several of these had been damaged and some replaced with limestone. BRS president Rhonda Maas believed replacing sandstone with sandstone was critical to maintaining the integrity of the balustrade and honoring the workmanship of the original masons. With the support of the architects and general contractor, BRS searched for a close match.

The first stop was a salvage yard, where they found several pallets of Turkey Creek sandstone, enough for Dutchman patches on damaged balusters, rails, columns and parapets. For the larger stones needed to replace whole balusters, BRS sought samples from all over the United States. Laboratory testing convinced them that Wilkeson Sandstone from Washington had composition and properties similar to the original. Maas traveled to the quarry to visually inspect the stock and hand pick the stones that best matched the Turkey Creek swirls and coloring.

The columns of the Voorheis Memorial at the north end of the park were stained by water runoff, graffiti and etching from power washing equipment. BRS tried various cleaning solutions on sample stones until they found the most effective one. In some cases they carefully resurfaced the stone to release old stains, remove graffiti and get a clean, fresh face. BRS also restored the plaster ceilings in both the Memorial and the Theater. Due to a January start, BRS faced the added challenge of enclosing the structures and working under heated tents.

The latest phase of the project, pavers and granite edging around the concrete walkways of the Broadway Terrace along the east edge of the park, was completed in September 2011. Civic Center Park was removed from Colorado Preservation, Inc.'s list of Endangered Places and promoted to SAVED!

[1] "Endangered Places", Colorado Preservationist Magazine, Winter 2011, pg. 11

Project Participants

  • Owner: Mark Bernstein, City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation Department
  • Architect/Desinger: Nan Anderson, Anderson Hallas Architects, PC (formerly Andrews & Anderson Architects, PC)
  • Structural Engineer: Dave Houdeshell, JVA Inc.
  • General Contractor: Tom Cella, Spectrum Contractors
  • Masonry Contractor: Rhonda Maas, Building Restoration Specialties, Inc.
  • Masonry Supplier: Eldon Strid, Strid Marble and Granite Company
  • Masonry Supplier: Rich Vigil, Jones Heartz Lime Company, Inc
  • Masonry Supplier: Jon Little, Summit Brick Company
  • Landscape Architect: Tina Bishop, Mundus Bishop Design Inc.
  • Other: Gerhard Petri, SlaterPaull Architects
  • Other: Ralph Mendoza, Mendoza's Used Brick
  • Other: Mark Stutz, General Shale Brick (formerly Robinson Brick Company)