06 August 2016

Olive Thomas Restored


As many of you know, a long-time goal of mine has been to see Olive Thomas' mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx restored. For almost 100 years, Olive's final resting place has sat untouched while nature has taken its course. Until now.

Last year, under the guidance of resident craftsman Rob Cappiello, a group of interns participated in a stone conservation program established in connection with the World Monuments Fund and the International Masonry Institute, working on the restoration of a series of small mausoleums at Woodlawn. One of those was Olive's. Yesterday, I went up to Woodlawn and met with Cappiello and Woodlawn's membership manager, Anastasija Ocheretina, to talk about the work that was done and to see the results in person. As you can tell from the photos below, they made a world of difference.


 The photo on the left is from a few years ago. The photo on the right was taken yesterday. Photos by Michele.


Before and after photos. Photos by Michele.

The mausoleum looks bright and clean, its details emerging like the rings above the columns, which you can now see are composed of flowers (tulips, perhaps?). They also removed the hideous wasp nest that was at the top of the door (thank you for that). Cappiello and his crew's first job was removing all of the biogrowth before dealing with the black carbon staining. "We started with the least aggressive method, just scrub brushes with water and light detergent then gradually moved up to a product called Restoration Cleaner—it’s a mild, vinegar type acid, which got rid of most of the carbon staining," he said. They also repaired all of the mortar joints to protect the mausoleum from water damage.

The mausoleum was picked for the project because of the type of dirt on it, the configuration of the mortar joints, and the stone that was used for its construction. "It's a very hard stone so you can’t do much damage," said Cappiello "It was a simple monument for them [the interns] to work on. Now they’re getting more fancy, working on curved cornices and such."

Working on the mausoleum had an effect on at least one of the workers. "We worked on so many buildings in the city, like the Waldorf Astoria, that all have a story that we never really get to know. We just go there and do the work," said Cappiello "Over here, when Susan [Susan Olsen, the director of Historical Services at Woodlawn] started telling me about Olive, I went online and couldn’t stop reading about her. She got me; I’m a fan."

Even with all of Cappiello and his crew's hard work, there's still more that needs to be done like the door, which needs to be refinished and protected and the glass cleaned. Some plans are being hatched to see the second phase of restoration completed. To keep up-to-date on the progress, follow me on Twitter at @madcapheiress25 where I will tweet any new developments and Instagram at @madcapheiress25 for photos. 

1 comment:

  1. As you know this makes me happy beyond belief, what a far cry it is from our visit to Ollie two years ago. Absolutely beautiful. I can now see it, as Jack created it for her and visited.

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