Rotunda and Links Roofing

Steelworkers from Brauns Iron Works flank Sam Harris, architect, while installing the steel in the new roof
The link of Cellblocks 2, 10 & 11 in progress, rising above the rebuilt wall of Cellblock 11.
Brauns Iron Works setting the new steel in the link of Cellblocks 2, 10 & 11.
Brauns Iron Works setting the new steel in the link of Cellblocks 2, 10 & 11.
Masons from Schneider Restoration have rebuilt and pointed stone and brick walls throughout the project.
Masons from Schneider Restoration have rebuilt and pointed stone and brick walls throughout the project.
During the reconstruction of the second floor of the Cellblock 6 Link, the original John Haviland era skylight was uncovered.
Tom Murphy and Dennis Raffa of Schneider Restoration reconstruct the brick parapet wall of the Rotunda.
Joe Marino of Schneider restoration, pointing the parapet wall of the Rotunda.
2002, $1,000,000
Status: Complete

Replacing the roofs over the Rotunda and the links to each of the original seven cellblocks.

While the strong exterior of Eastern State continues to brave through the years, it also serves to hide the slowly deteriorating interior. Since the summer of 2002, we have been undergoing a massive and meaningful roofing project to arrest the decay that has concentrated on the building’s Rotunda, the most significant physical and symbolic center of the prison. The project also includes the links that connect the Rotunda to the adjoining cellblocks. The project has been made possible through public funding and is significant in its complexity as it includes both restoration and rehabilitation of several historic metal roofs.

After receiving the prestigious and generous $500,000 Save America’s Treasures award in 2000, we were able to begin conceptualizing plans for this building stabilization project. The remainder of the construction costs were matched by funding from The City of Philadelphia, a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Keystone Historic Preservation Grant and proceeds from our annual Halloween fund raising event.

All of the existing roofs have suffered water damage and poor drainage problems throughout the years. The current project includes removal and restoration of the seriously damaged roofs with new galvanized standing or flat-seamed, painted roofs, as well as rehabilitation of the existing metal roofs that can be repaired and painted. The project was carefully planned, as it began in the midst of Eastern’s tour season. Construction had to work around historic site visitors.

The $1 million construction project was organized by order of priority—because of historical significance and importance to the tour route, but also because of the severity of deterioration. The roofs of the Rotunda and the links of Cellblocks Two, Four, Six and Seven ranked the highest. The next level of priority include the large link "The Knuckle" leading to Cellblocks Two, Ten and Eleven. Funding also allowed for the stabilization to the links of Cellblocks Three, Five, Ten and Eleven.

One of the most anticipated outcomes of the project is a dry Rotunda—for the first time in many years—as well safe access into all of the blocks from the Rotunda. We now look forward to the next important phase for the Rotunda, which will include restoration and interpretation of its interior.

The project was designed by architect-engineer, S. Harris & Co. and contracted to Munn Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors. Sub-contractors include: carpentry by S&S Quality Services; Masonry by Schneider Restorations, sheet metal by Mark Radick, plastering by R. Walter & Son, Inc., plumbing by Stephen Beer Plumbing, steel erection by Brauns Iron Works, Inc. and painting by Ted Sioutis. This is the third major roofing project this team has undertaken at Eastern State.

The project was completed in the fall of 2003.

At the completion of this project, the current Historic Site staff began to refer to the Rotunda as "Center," the term originally used for this space by Eastern State’s architect, John Haviland. Eastern State guards and inmates continued to use the term "Center" until the Penitentiary closed in 1971.

Funded by: Save America’s Treasures Award ($500,000), City of Philadelphia ($355,000), Commonwealth of PA Keystone Historic Preservation ($90,000). 2002 Halloween Fundraiser ($55,000).

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