Bringing a Second Life to a Distinctive Piece of History

York County Administrative Center

York, Pennsylvania

Design/Restore Preservation Partnership

Project Profile

Project Background

  • As part of an adaptive reuse of the original York County Courthouse, the York County Commissioners authorized the restoration of the original structure as the new York County Administrative Center
  • MPS was brought on to orchestrate a rehabilitation program that would provide long-term solutions to ongoing problems the building was experiencing
  • The primary focus of the restoration effort would be the structure’s three terra cotta domes and associated appendages

Project Challenges

  • The original construction of the domes included glazed terra cotta suspended from a steel-framed substructure; at numerous locations, this design did not provide adequate provisions to accommodate sufficient flashing or backup masonry to protect the substructure from rain or condensation
  • The corrosion of the substructure steel caused oxide jacking, which in turn cracked and displaced the terra cotta components, allowing more moisture to enter the assemblies
  • Previous misguided maintenance efforts contributed to an accelerated deteriorative cycle
  • After the time and economic implications of traditional design/bid/construction methods were considered, a negotiated design/restore option was chosen; MPS was commissioned to work on a fast-track, not-to-exceed basis

Project Approach

  • MPS developed a design and restoration strategy that would keep the project on schedule, provide maximum sustainability, and minimize future maintenance
  • Repairs included the introduction of new and improved copper flashing at skylights, membrane-protected skyward-facing terra cotta joints, and corrosion-inhibitive coatings applied to all exposed steel elements
  • Entire terra cotta assemblies were removed and rebuilt; where required, precast concrete components were used to replicate terra cotta
  • All exposed support steel was cleaned and restored, and all mortar joints were repointed with an appropriate historic mortar
  • Bell cupola was completely rebuilt including the shoring and rebuilding of the bell carriage, replacement and reinforcing of the steel superstructure, and replacement of terra cotta and cast stone

“With no time to assess, document, and specify the job, MPS immediately started working—the same day agreements were reached. The project was successfully completed on time and under budget to the absolute joy of the owner, general contractor, and project team. MPS’s work was the epitome of cost efficiency and quality construction.”

Tim Noble
Noble Preservation Services