The gargoyles are growling and the buttresses are flying again. Here, we provide a closer look at the $15 million project to save the face of Wagner College.

(If you would like to read this information in the original graphic we created for the print version of Wagner Magazine, click here to view it as a pdf: Restoring Main Hall web. Be prepared to wait for a download.)

It began with ...

WATER WOES: As the wear and tear of weather eroded the brick and mortar, water penetrated through the walls and started corroding the underlying structural steel, causing the steel beams to twist. It became an accelerating cycle as the twisting caused the bricks to crack, letting in even more water.

NEW VIEWS: All windows in the building — nearly 300 total — were replaced.

TOP SLATE: All new slate tiles were used to restore the roof. The roof now has a uniform look, as previous patch jobs did not match. No other roofing material beats slate, and the new stainless steel nails will not corrode like the old ones did. “It will last forever, probably,” says StructureTone construction foreman Mike Calvello.

BRICK & MORTAR: From about 1990 until 2005, ivy had been allowed to grow on the building. English ivy has aerial roots that can penetrate into existing cracks in weather-worn brick and mortar, accelerating Main’s water problems. Throughout the building, cracked bricks were replaced and the mortar was repointed, matching the color of the old as closely as possible.

GABLE TROUBLE: Cracked brick in the building’s gables allowed water to corrode the steel I-beams beneath. Those portions of the walls and the corroded ends of the beams were removed. New steel was welded to the intact portion of the old beams, and then the brick walls were rebuilt.

TOWER FIX: Originally, only the dome was slated for replacement. Closer inspection revealed that the walls of the octagonal tower had separated; there wasn’t anything solid for a new dome to sit on. Workers deconstructed about 30 feet of each tower, and rebuilt them using cinder block and brick with steel rebar reinforcement. The cast concrete dome was replaced with a new dome exactly matching the old, but made of durable, and much lighter weight, glass fiber reinforced plastic.

CASTING STONE: Every original cast concrete piece that could be saved was saved, after being cleaned and repaired. Those pieces included the quoins (the decorative stones at the exterior angles), the crosses, and the trees of knowledge and life on either side of the front entrance. Pieces that were irreparably damaged were replaced with glass fiber reinforced plastic molded to exactly match the old shapes, including the dome on the west tower, the bay window, finials, the gargoyles, the coping stones along the parapets, and details in the clock area.

SETTING THE STAGE: The theater roof required almost a complete rebuild. While shoring it up from inside, workers deconstructed the brick walls several feet down from the top, and replaced or repaired the corroded steel beams spanning the roof. Then the brick walls were rebuilt and the roof replaced. Inside the theater, patrons can enjoy new seats, refinished flooring, and new curtains.

STEPPING UP: Cracks in the walls of stair towers revealed that they were slowly shifting away from the main building. With improved water drainage, new steel fastening the stairs (or “stringers”) to the landings, and the addition of expansion joints where the cracks had been, the stair towers are now more secure and more flexible.

SPOUTING DOWN: All down spouts, which had been leaking and only partly functional, were replaced with new copper ones.

RIGHT ON TIME: The clocks on the front and back of the building have been restored to working condition. The front clock had been non-operational since about 1950.

GRAND ENTRANCE: New stairs were built and the wooden doors were refinished.

A SOUND FOUNDATION: The final stage of the project was to deal with the water coming into the basement. After determining that the old drain lines were broken, workers dug trenches around entire building, replaced the pipes and installed new footing drains to route water away from the foundation; foundation cracks were repaired, the foundation waterproofed, and new retaining walls were built. The earth around the building was graded to carry water away from the basement.

AIRING OUT: Thirteen exhaust fans were installed on the third floor to pull out hot air and improve building circulation.

WISH LIST: The College was not able to complete all desired upgrades to the building, such as:

  • Adding an elevator and improving wheelchair access to the building.
  • Installing central air conditioning.
  • Further upgrading the theater by raking the seating area and modernizing all stage equipment.

READ MORE: Wagner art historian Sarah J. Scott on the meaning of Main Hall.