Rare Wood News

Case Study: Maryland State Capitol Renovation With Reclaimed Cypress Shingles.

Maryland State Capitol renovation with cypress shingles

Experts restoring Maryland’s historic State Capitol called on E.T. Moore to source authentic reclaimed tidewater cypress to partially replace the original shingles protecting the sides of the building’s famous dome, which dates from 1794.

E.T. Moore drew on extensive experience working with genuine old-growth East Coast hardwoods to match the original shingles from on-hand stock and used expert milling skills to help project craftspeople recreate the building’s traditional shingling techniques.

The Maryland State House Dome

The oldest state capitol building still in legislative use, Maryland’s State House and its distinctive dome has towered over the skyline of Annapolis for more than 250 years. As the first part of a multi-year restoration of the capitol, the dome has undergone major renovations in the last year.

Much of the current dome dates to 1792, when the capitol’s original dome was expanded under the direction of Joseph Clark, a local architect and builder. Although a great deal of Clark’s structure remains in place, it was badly in need of waterproofing, structural repairs, and sensitive restoration of the original roofing, windows, and traditional wooden shingling.

When work on the $7.5 million dome refurbishment project was given the go-ahead in early 2022, restoration experts, The Christman Company, tapped E.T. Moore to source and mill cypress shingles to match the original old-growth shingles covering the sides of the dome tower.

The Challenge

Renovation of the State Capitol dome was just the first part of a complex long-term restoration of the entire building expected to cost $34 million and work needed to be done on time and on budget to avoid contractual penalties and keep the larger project on track.

Scaffolding around the state capitol dome

The Maryland Board of Public Works required work on the dome to be wrapped up within the year following project approval in January 2022. Project general contractor Christman has undertaken several high-profile historic renovations for the state and understands the need to deliver high-quality work that respects the skills and intentions of the original artisans.

At the same time, planning, budgeting, and completing historic restorations can be complex, because renovation almost always reveals additional damaged materials or structures that also need to be upgraded, putting pressure on timelines.

Christman contacted E.T. Moore in February 2002 and requested a match of the original old-growth tidewater cypress shingles used on the dome with suitable reclaimed wood of a similar age, and source enough lumber to allow the project to be completed on time.

The contractor also needed E.T. Moore to mill the replacement shingles to replicate the existing traditional building techniques used on the building, which involves mingling shakes of several different widths to cover the surface of all four sides of the dome tower with a distinctive pattern.

With the final contract signed and the deposit paid in June, E.T. Moore had four months to deliver the replacement shingles to keep the project on track.

The Solution

Craftsmen at E.T. Moore match shingles to treated reclaimed cypress

Work by the original project researchers had identified the wood used in the existing shingles as tidewater cypress from the original coastal old-growth forests of the Eastern Seaboard.

Fortunately, E.T. Moore was able to use established techniques to match sample shingles to treated reclaimed cypress stocks on hand in their Richmond, VA-based facility.

However, E.T. Moore also knew from previous experience sourcing replacement wood shingles for James Madison’s historical home at Montpelier that matching the grading and milling of the original lumber would be a complex task.

The team started by asking the contractor to measure the exact widths of a sample row of 35 shingles on all of the sides of the dome tower. It was discovered that each row of 35 required shingles of varying individual widths to cover the entire width in a regularly repeating pattern.

E.T. Moore used this pattern to create a larger graded sample including shingles in six different individual widths from 2 ½” to 7”. Almost 10,000 shingles were needed, each exactingly milled, to partially replace the original shingles on the dome.

Replacement cypress shingles on the capitol dome

With suitable lumber already treated and on hand, E.T. Moore’s expert craftsmen got to work using techniques similar to those who created the original cypress shingles.

True to our promise of sourcing quality reclaimed hardwoods quickly and affordably, E.T. Moore delivered a full batch of replacement shingles for the Maryland State House Dome in September 2022 – on budget and a month ahead of schedule.

The Results

When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan raised the flags of the nation and of Maryland over the capitol dome on January 10, 2023, it marked the end of the first stage of a restoration project that recognizes the past while ensuring the future viability of America’s oldest operating state capitol.

“Our historic State House has been an important part of the Annapolis skyline for 250 years, making it and its dome a national treasure,” Governor Hogan said.

“We mark the culmination of its restoration and ensure this landmark will continue to stand strong for generations to come.”

E.T. Moore’s large in-stock inventory, traditional woodworking skills, and deep knowledge of historical coastal hardwoods allowed the original materials of this historic building to be supplemented with carefully stewarded resources of the same age and origin.

In fact, it’s possible the trees used for the original shingles might have been growing alongside those from which their replacements were made – an amazing testament to the longevity of this unique American resource, and the value of preserving it by keeping it in use.

It’s hard to think of a better material to protect the home of Maryland’s democracy for the next 250 years!

Let E.T. Moore Supply Your Next Project

Founded in 1969, E.T. Moore is one of the largest reclaimed wood suppliers on the East Coast. Our extensive facilities and deep on-site inventory mean that we can match any sample and provide your historic renovation or new project with premium reclaimed wood. Learn more by contacting E.T. Moore today.

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Author Taylor Moore III
Date November 13, 2023