Radcliffe Yard Wall, Harvard University


CBI provided design and construction administration services for the restoration of historical Radcliffe Yard Wall at Harvard University.  The Yard wall consists of brick masonry, granite steps, limestone toppers, and ornamental wrought iron fence.


In general, CBI found the walls and fencing to be in fair to good condition.  However, lack of maintenance and exposure to New England weather resulted in deterioration that needed to be addressed to preserve the historic fabric.  CBI proposed to perform repairs to the masonry walls and piers, the wrought iron gates and fence elements, as well as granite steps which were displaced.  It was imperative that work be performed to match the existing and recover and reuse as many existing materials as possible.  All new materials were procured to match the existing as closely as possible. 

In most cases, the existing wrought iron of the gates had been extremely well-maintained and recently repaired.  Most of the ironwork only required a new coat of paint.  However, several locations contained specific wrought iron elements that rusted and needed repair or replacement.  The new material matched the existing in scale and detail.

Certain areas of brick masonry were rebuilt being as they were deteriorated to a point of structural deficiency such as behind several of the large piers along Garden Street where the mortar was open and the bricks were displaced.   The remaining mortar joints along both the “yard” side and the street side of the wall were cut out and repointed with new mortar to match the original mortar in color and texture.  Additionally, the masonry was cleaned and minor limestone repair was performed on damaged portions. 

The granite steps at the gate along Garden Street were displaced.  An obvious installation problem, the treads were uneven and allowing water to collect creating a safety hazard for the students, faculty, and visitors.  In order to correct the problem, this section of steps was completely removed and the foundations reinforced and leveled by adding a “mud set” topping to reinstall the existing granite in a level, plumb assembly that provides even riser heights and a slight pitch to shed water.