Dept. of Commerce Gutter & Stone Cornice Evaluation
Washington, DC: 2003
Stretching for three city blocks, the Herbert Hoover Department of Commerce Building was the largest office building in the world when it was completed in 1931. With the increased scale of 1930s government buildings, traditional materials were often put into service in new ways. Benefiting from new technology that could make large sheets of metal, the copper gutters at DOC were stretched to three foot wide with eighty feet between expansion joints. Additionally, the desire to hide the gutters from view meant the front edge was tucked into a reglet rather than wrapped over the outer edge of the stone cornice. This left skyward-facing joints in the stone where the stress of metal expansion and contraction was greatest and maintenance would be sporadic. In the winter of 2003 pieces of the massive stone cornice began falling to the street and conservators were asked to figure out the cause, immediate stabilization measures, and repair needed to protect the public and save the historic cornice.