The Restoration of the Dial


On Friday, May 19, 2017, employees from the Hilgartner Natural Stone Co. removed the Dial to commence restoration work.  Hilgartner, based in Baltimore and founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and prestigious stone masons in the country.  Their recent work ranges from developing and fabricating the marble bases for statues in front of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium to redoing the granite steps at Baltimore's City Hall. 

Tom Doyle, Owner and President of Hilgartner, supervised the restoration of the Dial and provided insight on the process.  After inspecting the Dial at their facility, Tom noted three distinct problems:

  1. Weathering of the Indiana limestone without any treatment of the stone for decades.
  2. Ineffective repairs performed to the cracks and damage done to the Dial from HU vehicles (i.e., different adhesives, improper pinning, and metals used).
  3. The unaddressed damage that was done by those vehicles that were not taken care of previously (i.e., chips and cracks).

Hilgartner dedicated three staff masons to work on our project.  After a thorough analysis, Hilgartner staff employed an 8-step restoration process: 

Step 1: The Dial was separated into its three distinct pieces: the crown/frieze (decorated top), fluted shaft, and plinth (base).  The mortar and pins were removed from the Dial as well as any inappropriate setting material (this was chiseled out).


Step 2: The staff then applied a pH-neutral stone soap to scrub down and soft clean the three pieces.  Also, a low-pressure wash (300 psi) was applied to remove dirt but not harm the aged limestone.



Step 3: An on-site visit occurred with our Restoration team of Bros. Tim Robinson, Jerome Bailey, and Leland Edgecombe to discuss and approve the next-steps.



Step 4: Select areas of the Dial that were chipped and damaged were cut and patched utilizing Jahn restoration/repair mortar.  This mortar is a correcting mortar carefully crafted and cured over 48 hours to match the physical characteristics of the Indiana limestone.  Approximately 25 patches were applied ranging in size from 1" x 1" to 3" x 4."



Step 5: The Dial was reassembled in a manner to provide strength and stability.  This was performed by running a bolt through the center of all three pieces.  Additionally, shins were placed between the joints of the crown and shaft and shaft and plinth as an added adherent for the Dial.

Step 6: Pointing mortar was applied to the joints to adhere all three pieces together.

Step 7: The Dial was cleaned twice more with the pH-neutral stone soap and low-pressure washed.

Step 8: A proprietary Hilgartner impregnating sealer was applied to the Dial to help resist staining from the elements.

The project was completed on Monday, July 17 and will be brought back to HU on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 for reinstallation in the work-in-progress hardscape on campus.  When the Dial is brought back to the Yard, it will be housed in a new surrounding.  In addition to the restoration, a 10' diameter brick hardscape will be built that will provide the Dial with an eye-catching safe space.  Also, a bas relief bronze marker commemorating Benjamin Banneker, the historic African-American surveyor, astronomer and mathematician, who the Dial honors will be installed at the entrance to the hardscape. 

Artist's rendering of the completed Dial restoration initiative

When this is complete, which will be in mid-to-late August 2017, it will change the landscape of the Yard at Howard University just like the Lampados Club did in 1929.

Just like in 1929, what's being done is historic.  The total cost of this initiative is almost $25,000.  We need your help.  Be a part of history and make a donation to this historic cause. 

Donate today


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