Beginning May 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court Building's West Front Façade began a complete restoration to address deterioration due to age, weather and nature.
The United States Supreme Court Building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, was constructed between 1929 and 1935. The classically detailed exterior is clad with white Vermont Imperial Danby marble with bronze windows and ornamental bronze doors, railings and light fixtures.
In December 2005, a modillion from the pediment cornice failed and fell to the ground which initiated the planning for the restoration of the building’s west facade. Emergency repair work has been performed on the West Portico over several years during summer recess of the Court, but now full restoration work is underway.
Scaffolding was installed during the summer of 2012 across the entire west elevation of the building. The scaffold is wrapped in a scrim enclosure printed with a full-size photograph of the building’s façade – a practice that is used extensively in Europe. As work is completed on the north and south portions of the façade, the scaffold will be partially removed.
The project entails removing of old and new bird deterrent systems and safety netting and replacement of the mortar and sealants in all of the joints between the stones. Additionally, the stone will be cleaned to remove general soiling, black gypsum crusts and disfiguring copper staining.
The stone cleaning will use a low-pressure water washing method using mild detergents. The column capitols, carved portions of the cornice and the pediment statuary will be cleaned with a laser technology similar that which is used cosmetically for skin. The laser removes soiling without touching the very deteriorated and fragile stone. The carved stone of the portico column capitals and cornice and the sculpture of the portico pediment will also receive a special conservation treatment, called consolidation, to slow the deterioration of the stone and loss of detail.
The bronze grilles at the portico will be cleaned of paint, coatings and corrosion and will be restored to the original brown statuary bronze finish to match the new windows that were installed as part of the interior rehabilitation.