Needs Assessment Narrative:
Woodlawn Cemetery Caretaker’s House

This needs assessment offers suggestions for the stabilization of the Woodlawn Cemetery Caretaker’s House, Marion County. Suggestions are listed in order of needs priority utilizing some basic accepted preservation techniques. It should be noted that before any recommendations are undertaken regarding structural matters, a structural engineer should be consulted.

Assessment Prepared By:
Lynn Stasick,
State-Wide Field Representative,
Preservation Alliance of West Virginia
Date: 05/30/2012

The Woodlawn Cemetery Chapel and Supervisor’s Residence (Marion County) lies near the entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery. Built circa 1928, the fabric of this modified American foursquare is composed of polychromatic brick burned from locally dug clay. The building was designed to serve as a funeral parlor, chapel, offices, and the superintendent’s residence.
Listed on the National Register, the cemetery holds the remains of Francis Pierpont, the “Father of West Virginia,” two governors, several Congressmen, and the founders of Fairmont. A number of organizations support its saving and adaptive reuse as a historical and genealogical research and archive facility in partnership with Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College.
Note: Because of the condition of this building, the recommendations offered herein pertain to the stabilization of the structure only. No suggestions for interior rehabilitation are offered since the focus and available funding should be targeted toward both mothballing and stabilizing the structure.

Building Description:
This building is in rapid decline due to long term exterior deficiencies, and is in need of immediate measures to stabilize the structure in order to minimize further decay and decline. Only then can other issues be addressed. There is evidence of some foundation shift causing minor buckling and bulging of the brick walls in some locations. There is also evidence of rust wedging due to rusted steel window lintels. This is wreaking havoc with the brick and needs to be addressed in the very near future. The roofing system has failed completely as have the gutters and downspout systems. There is some damage to both the soffit and fascia in several locations. The extent of the damage is hard to ascertain however since modern gutters hang in front of much of the soffit. The nine-over-one and six-over-one double-hung windows are in various states of decay although most appear savable at this time. The front porch of the building is missing and represents a major architectural element. There is also vegetation growing from the gutters, roof, and foundation. There are also tree branches located too near the structure causing a buildup of moisture and thus promoting rot as well as rising damp. There is evidence of compression, wet, and dry rot throughout the structure.
Due to the failure of the building fabric systems, the wholesale intrusion of water has caused all manner of damage to the interior. For example, the lath nails supporting the ceilings have rusted and rotted away allowing the collapse of sections of ceiling and lath in various locations throughout the structure, but most especially on the top floor. There is evidence of black mold (among other types) and efflorescence throughout the structure, and plaster on the walls is severely damaged and/or non-existent in a number of locations. Although the floors seem relatively sound, there has been a catastrophic failure of the flooring system in one of the ground floor rooms. The concern here is that the rotted material below the load-bearing walls will eventually allow the walls themselves to sag, and then transfer that sag to the second floor. There is also a very weak floor at the top of the second floor stairs.

Priority #1:
Beyond a doubt, this building needs major temporary stabilization measures before any other meaningful work can begin. While it is true that a roofing system is first and foremost, certain measures can be taken now to mitigate much of the water intrusion until time at which a new roofing system is economically feasible. The following recommendations are offered to achieve the goals of temporary stabilization and mothballing.
1. Remove all vegetation from around the building including that in the gutters and on the roof.
2. As with the Wyco Church project, (another PAWV endangered property) approach either a mining, construction company, or other source and ask if they could provide large tarps with which to cover the worst parts of the roof, and then secure them firmly in place.
3. Cover all windows and doors using best practice methods. This will consist of plywood panels mounted from the outside to protect the sashes and glass using all-thread bolts secured to two 2”x2” wooden bars per window which will sandwich the panel and bars together thus securing the openings without further damage to the structure and the interior wood trims.
4. It will be important to begin addressing the problems with the brick fabric, as the gaps caused by the rust wedging are causing water intrusion as well continuing deterioration of the walls.

At present time, this building is savable but at the cusp, and it is unrealistic to think that any meaningful interior work can begin until new roofing, gutter, and downspout systems have been installed, and the foundation and brick deterioration are addressed. This is not to say that much cannot be done immediately to improve the interior conditions however. For example, the old plaster and lath could be removed and discarded thus reducing the places where mold and mildew can fester and grow. In addition, the floor failure in the ground floor front room could be cleaned up and temporary supports placed under the load-bearing walls to prevent further sagging of the second floor. Cleaning the space will not only give one a better idea of what issues need to be addressed further, but it will also offer a clear and unencumbered space with which to plan. It will also offer a sense of hope that the project will eventually see completion.
Once the building envelope is permanently secured and before interior replacement construction can begin, it will be important to install an HVAC system. The reason is that humidity and temperature controls are essential to the prevention of various types of molds and insects. Therefore, no meaningful plaster replacement and repairs can begin until a system is in place. This of course will require the installation of a new electrical system as well. Also, at some point during the process, the windows and doors will have to be restored.

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