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Second Bank Site History

Pre-National Park Service
In 1844 William Strickland warned Collector Judge Blythe that "the whole of the interior as well as the exterior required a thorough cleansing and repair, particularly in the items of carpentry, masonry, painting & glazing... The marble columns and architraves of the principle business room required scrubbing with pumice stone, to remove the dust of the years..."
Stone deterioration on the Bank triggered stone repair in the early 1920’s when some loose stone was removed from the columns. The stone deterioration was considered severe enough for the federal government to request from the Obelisk Waterproofing Company of New York and the Avron Company of Philadelphia estimates for waterproofing the entire exterior of the structure. The Obelisk Company gained notoriety for applying hot paraffin wax on Cleopatra's Needle in 1885 hence the company’s name. Paraffin has a low melting point, which during hot days causes dust and particulates to adhere to the surface. Photographs from 1940 show the building covered with black deposits, which might be explained by the hot wax treatment that the Obelisk Company might have applied.

In 1923, Edward Crane, consulting architect, reported that several pieces of marble had fallen off, especially from the columns. He agreed that the building should be cleaned, repointed, and waterproofed. The use of a waterproofing compound “could do no harm and might prove a real preservative." For cleaning, he recommended that soap and water should be used with "a good stiff brush.”

As a National Park Structure
In May 1942 the exterior marble was cleaned and waterproofed, but no records were found describing the cleansers, tools, or methods used. Photographs show that the columns and the ashlar of the south facade were cleaned from the bottom up, with the northern elevation being done at about the same time in a similar pattern. The east and west facades were cleaned in sections starting at the southern and northern ends and working towards the middle.

From 1964-1973, the bank underwent a series of alterations and in 1975, was reopened as a Portrait Gallery. In 1994, in response to observed stone failure, a preliminary assessment of the exterior masonry and characterization and analysis of the stone was initiated by the National Park Service (INHP) and the Architectural Conservation Laboratory of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. This led to temporary protection and emergency stabilization of critical areas of the entablature for public safety and laboratory testing of potential consolidation methods. Historically there has been periodic dimensional loss of the marble through spalling on the columns and along the entablature. Additionally, in unsheltered areas of the ashlar walls, many stones display a deep pattern of loss through contour scaling of the stone faces.
Only small-scale repairs were conducted in the 1980's and 1990’s. From 1983 to the present, several fragments of marble had fallen off and were adhered back in place with epoxies and other methods. To prepare the areas the damaged stone was cut away to insure a good key.

In 1999 following these initial studies, a multi-phased conservation plan was developed by the ACL and the National park Service and initiated with the preparation of a detailed computer-based survey of the exterior masonry conditions and the compilation of a history of past repairs and treatments to the building.
original drawing
Elevation Drawing, William Strickland, 1821
Wild Litho
United States Bank, J. C. Wild Lithograph, 1838
1936 Second Bank
United States Bank, Bartlett Watercolor, 1836
1942 image
South Elevation, National Park Service, 1942