U.S. Customs House, Barnstable

THE CHALLENGE

In 2008, CBI provided a historic building analysis, and reported on the conditions of the U.S. Customs House in Barnstable, MA.  Recommendations for repairs and replacements, along with preliminary cost estimates and phasing options, were provided. 

Built in 1856 by Architect Ammi Young, the historic Customs House was Cape Cod’s first ‘fireproof’ building.  In the past the building housed a Post Office, but is currently owned by the Town of Barnstable, and leased for use as a Coast Guard Heritage Museum.  CBI identified major building envelope improvements and aesthetic upgrades.  Wood windows were severely deteriorated and the basement was flooding through the foundation under the front steps.  Other reported leaks ceased many years ago when the exterior brick was painted.  Many other historic elements, such as the windows and cast iron trim on the outside of the building, were failing and in jeopardy of being lost.

CBI’S SOLUTION

CBI followed specific guidelines to maintain the historic integrity of the Customs House since the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was partially funded by the Massachusetts Historical Commission through their Preservation Projects Fund.

The restoration at the Customs House was performed in two phases.  The first phase consisted of complete window restoration.  All sash and frames were removed, paint stripped, repaired (partial replacements where required), and repainted.  The sash were re-installed with new ropes and re-attached to the existing weights in their original frame location.  Glass was cleaned and reinstalled with new glazing and all hardware was cleaned, polished and reinstalled.  Exterior cast iron molding details around the perimeter of the windows were also repaired, primed, and painted. 

Exterior paint on the brick that was applied in the 1980’s was beginning to deteriorate, particularly along the mortar joints.  The paint was non-breathable and contributing to moisture trapped inside the exterior walls.  Phase 2 design services included stripping all of the paint and replacing it with a breathable masonry coating to alleviate this issue.  Additional improvements included waterproofing the foundation near the entrance, and cutting and pointing cracked, loose, and deteriorated mortar joints.