An Award Winning Historical Restoration Project
In 2009, Joy Webster, the principal designer for the renovation project, through KHK Construction, the General Contractor, contacted Murray's Iron Works to see if Murray's could update and reproduce elevator direction indicator lights for a 26 story historical building at 7th and Main in Fort Worth, Texas, owned by Bob Simpson, Chairman of XTO. The 1930's indicator had some very unique features including a lens composed of opal glass with red layered glass on the interior of the bottom and green layered glass at the top. The interior coating of glass was removed using stencils to create a white "Up Arrow" at the top half and a "Down Arrow" at the bottom half with each arrow having either a green or red background that would only be visible through the opal outside glass when the up or down indicator light would be on. An interior bronze barrier split the two separately lit halves. The body of the fixture was made from cast and machined bronze. This piece was the only reproduction for this project. All other items are original from concept to completed piece. All items for this project were fabricated in Silicone Bronze.
Elevator Indicator Light Reproduction of Original from 1930's. Both lights on to show the indicators.
Murray's success in quickly delivering the elevator indicator lights with such high quality gave the clients confidence to expand the relationship. Ed Leisner, President of Murray's was provided with a photograph of an Art Deco light fixture seen in a museum. The fixture was the inspiration for the Lobby Light fixtures. Tod Hanson, Partner of Swarz-Hanson architects, the principal architect for the entire building renovation, was responsible for the design of the Lobby Light Fixtures and all subsequent items provided by Murray's. Hanson relied on Leisner's expertise with Art Deco metalwork to develop the Lobby Light fixtures incorporating details from historical components that remained intact or were found in storage areas of the building.
UL Listed Art Deco Bronze Lobby Light Fixtures with Frosted Seeded Glass fabricated by Murray's.
First Prototype Detail (No Patina).
Murray's then provided the historical door hardware, elevator cab guardrails and sprinkler system signage plate with decorative rosettes.
Elevator Cab Guardrail.
Custom Fire Sprinkler Signage with Rosette Collars.
The final two items were the most challenging: a Mailbox for the Lobby and the covers for the Exterior facade lights. Murray's contacted the Fort Worth Postmaster who provided technical requirements for a lobby wall insert mailbox. The Postmaster eventually also provided the lock and key. Based on examples available from the 1920's and incorporating historical design elements from the building, Murray's fabricated a completely original piece. It's interesting to note that many of the regulations from the 1920's had changed. The regulation that impacted the design the most was that the mailbox no longer had to have signage regarding the mail pick-up times. To meet ADA requirements, the decorative (visible) portion of the mailbox could not extend beyond four inches from the wall. Murray's provided a full-scale sketch of the mailbox and after a couple of iterations began fabrication. The mailbox was fabricated using lost wax cast and machined bronze with decorative elements layered onto bronze plates. The design is quite original - nothing is reproduced from any existing piece. For example, the eagle was sculpted in resin by Murray's in-house sculptor/woodcarver and then cast in bronze using the lost-wax technique at Murray's foundry. Hinges were made in the machine shop and adjusted by hand by a Master Blacksmith. The lost wax casting method, however, proved to be too inconsistent for the fine ovals, and these were eventually fabricated using a water-jet to cut-out the pattern from a thick bronze plate. The result is a functional museum quality mailbox that meets modern standards while providing an artistic tribute to designs of the 1920's.
The last item produced by Murray's for this project was by far the most challenging: the Billets. As part of the original 1920's construction, stone figures sit centered above each arch of the first floor windows. Since the entire area which the building is located is undergoing transformation through redevelopment, one of the goals for the City of Fort Worth is to create attractive nighttime walking zones. The City required that lighting would accentuate the figures at night. The architect's solution was to use a very common feature of 1920's buildings, a signage board known from movie theaters (where the movie poster was displayed) as a "Billet" to act as a cover to hide the modern lighting. To emphasize the Historical designation of the building, each Billet would have some historical information. At first, the simple Billet was to have only text. This evolved into text, engraved/etched historical photos, and a highly decorative design. The Billet would also have to open to access the lights and replace the transformers if needed. All of these features had to happen within a limited depth given the location of the lights along the property line of the building and ADA requirements. Safety and other technical issues had to be addressed as well. For example, pigeons had to be kept from roosting on the crown of the billet without interfering with the light beams. Murray's fabricated highly effective, unique bird-spike clusters from bronze and recessed them on a specially constructed internal ledge. Access to the lights was achieved by creating a very large hinge using the tube that is the basis for the scroll at the bottom of the Billet. This very clever idea conceived by Steve Leisner, Production Manager at Murray's, insured that the Billet could be safely and easily opened with a built-in-stop. Some additional safety components were added including V-hinges and stainless steel safety cables. Based on the original design, the final installation is a wonderful example of technical and artistic innovation to meet the requirements of the Historical District, the demands of the owner of the building, and the brilliant vision of Tod Hanson, project architect. For his work, Tod Hanson was awarded the 2013 Texas AIA Award for a Restoration Project (link to article in Texas AIA Magazine). Murray's is proud to be a significant contributor to this project and successfully create pieces of enduring quality and beauty.
Billet effectively covering the easily accessible lights that illuminate the building.
Photographer: Dan Stober
Texas Architect Magazine - September / October 2013
Texas Architect. August 2013. Renovation Award Winner.