Big Changes to Iconic Fernandina Landmark

One of the windows "mid-restoration"

Already looking better!


It has been long in coming, but the old US Customs House and Post office restoration begins.  Anticipate a positive effect on surrounding properties and a huge improvement for the Historic Disrrict of Fernamdina, as the most visible is restored.

Some of the responses to questions about the renovation/restoration are below.  Other than a visible improvement to, what had become, an eyesore, it looks like we may see external downspouts on the building called for in the original plans.  The restoration is truly a service to Fernandina…far beyond my hopes for the near future of the building.


Biggest visual impact on Centre Street

Bigger impact , visually, than the Historic Courthouse! umbrella hat....

Yes…an umbrella hat….

AKEL, LOGAN & SHAFERclip_image003



Fernandina Beach Finance Office

401 Centre Street

Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034

USPS Project Number {FMS): G37639

clip_image004704 Rosselle Street I Jacksonville, FL 32204 Telephone (904) 356-2654 I Fax (904) 356-4010

Response to Review Comments: The following is provided in response to the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources review comments dated August 24, 2015:

1. Repair Exterior Stucco/ New Waterproof Coating: We recognize that the exterior stucco is in need of repair and repainti ng. This work will have a positive effect on the building’ s long term preservation and will meet the Standards provided that all related work follows the recommendations and guidance provided by NPS Preservation Brief 22: The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stucco. (Reference Standards 2, 5, 6)

Response: The referenced exterior stucco repair work will be done in accordance with NPS Preservation Brief 22: The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stucco.

2. Replace the Building HVAC Systems: The proposed in-kind replacement of the existing ductwork on the first floor will have a negative visual impact to historic interior finishes. Please provide additional interior photographs of the public and private first floor interior spaces as well as detailed pictures of the ceiling. Please also address the feasibility of using a mini mally visi ble HVAC system, such as the Unico system, that would require routing ductwork th rough the walls and/or ceiling. NPS guidance indicates that if a non-historic element which negatively impacts historic character is distu rbed during rehabilitation, that element should be removed and replaced wit h a historicc>lly compatible element or mitigation of the negative effect. Additional guidance for the installation of iVAC systems is provided by NPS Preservation Brief 24: Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling Historic Buildings Problems and Recommended Approaches. (Reference Standards 2, 5)

Response: The postal workroom, the space in which the HVAC unit and ductwork is located was originally designed as a utilitarian workspace not seen ·or used by the public. The existing ceiling consists of the painted structural concrete second floor structure. Sanitary drain lines from the second floor restrooms and other pipes and conduit are exposed at the ceiling and throughout the space in the manner in which the building was originally constructed. Refer to photographs below. The existing HVAC system provides conditioned air to the public spaces (customer lobby and box lobby) without any impact to the architectural character of those spaces with the exception of two transfer grills located in the wall of the box lobby near the ceiling. The proposed HVAC system would maintain this concept.

We have investigated options for minimally visible HVAC systems, including the Unico any variable ref rigerant flow systems (note: a VRF system is being proposed for the second floor) and believe they are not appropriate for the first floor for the following reasons:

1. There are no architectural finish elements, either at the walls or ceiling to provide chases for even the small diameter ducts of the Unico system. The ceiling finish consists of paint over structural concrete. The wall finish consists of plaster furred over structural brick. Such ducts would have to be surface ru n and thus visible in the work room. Such ducts could be run in the walls separating the work room from the public spaces but doing so would require removal of existing finishes in order to install the ducts resulting in damage to the original finishes.

Fernandina Beach, FL Finance Office USPS Project Number (FMS): G37639

August 24,2015


2. The maximum air handling unit available for the Unico system is not large enough to accommodate the first floor load. Three units would be required to equate to the single conventional split system heat pump air handling unit. Space for these units would need to be provided. The total area for the three units would be larger than that for the single conventional unit.

4. The Unico system is less energy efficient than a conventional heat pump system of equivalent capacity.

5. The use of a VRF system also would result in similar issues to the Unico system with exposed ref rigerant lines and placement of several fan terminal units throughout the workroom space. Such units would also be needed in the public areas. There is no visual impad from the HVAC system with the existing and proposed systems other than a few wall grills.

3. Abandon Interior Roof Drainage/ Install Exposed Gutters & Downspouts: The lack of exterior gutters and downspouts appears to be the original design intent for the Fernandina Beach Post Office. Our office considers the lack of visible exterior gutters and downspouts to be a character defining aspect of the building. To meet the Standards, the rehabilitation should include the repair and reuse of the

internal gutter system. Please provide additional justification for the decision to abandon the internal gutter system.(Reference Standards 2, 5)

Response: The original roof drainage system consists of an approximately 6-inch square gutter recessed into the clay tile-clad roof structure with four 4-inch round concealed downspouts, one at each corner of the building, installed into recesses in the inside face of the exterior structural brick walls. The downspouts are covered by the interior plaster finish and conned in the basement to underground drain lines that originally connected to the city’s storm drainage system. The downspouts have experienced multiple failures over the years resulting in significant damage to the buildi ng finishes. While this is the system originally designed for the building we do not recommend that it be maintained for the following reasons:

1. Difficulty of maintenance: The system, being entirely concealed, cannot be visually inspeded or maintained without damage to the interior building finishes.

2. Significant negative consequences of system failure: Leaks caused by failure of the gutters or downspouts results in damage to the building finishes at a minimum. Unfortunately , early leaks may not visually manifest themselves for an extended period of time which could result in continual wetness inside the walls that may result in mold growth inside the walls. The existing building does exhibit some mold on the plaster in the areas of downspout failure.

3. The existing roof drainage system is only marginally within the design tolerances for the drainage capacity required for this roof size. If only one of the downspouts is blocked, the roof does not have adequate drainage capacity which would result in overflowing gutters that could cause water to back up and enter the roof strudure under the building flashing.

4. The downspouts, at 48 feet in length exceed the recommended distance for unvented downspouts. Adding venting to concealed downspouts is not recommended as the venting would be within the building . Should such a downspout become blocked, water would back up and spill diredly into the building.

5. Adding additional downspouts would require that the interior building finishes be opened up for their installation. This would also add new building elements to the interior where none currently exist. It is presumed such downspouts would need to be

Fernandina Beach,FL Finance Office

USPS Project Number (FMS}: G37639

August 24,20l5

concealed in new surface chases as recessing them into the structural brick walls would be impractical.

6. The existing downspouts currently connect to underground drain pipes, the condition of which is unknown. The original construction drawings indicate that the original pipes were terra cotta pipes. It is not known if they were ever replaced . It is clear based on visual observations that the original cast iron piping extends down from the first floor into the basement and through the foundation wall to the outside. Refer to photographs below.

In summary, while the existing concealed gutters and downspouts represent the originally designed system, we do not recommend that they be maintained for the reasons described above. In addition, half-rou nd gutters and round downspouts of the type proposed are historically consistent as they were used extensively on similar buildings constructed at the same time as the subject structure. They also, in our op1n1on, will provide for superior performance and result in fewer maintenance problems thus ensuring better building performance and longer building life.



704 Rosselle Street / Jacksonville, FL 32204 Telephone (904) 356-2654 I Fax (904) 356-4010

September 3, 2015


Fernandina Beach Finance Office 401 Centre Street

Fernandina Beach,Florida 32034 USPS Project Number (FMS): G37639

Response to Review Comments: The following is provided in response to the City of Fernandina Beach Community Development Department review comments dated August 14, 2015:

1. Keynote 3 – Could the ma rble pa rtitions and wainscot to be removed be repurposed elsewhere in the building?

Response: The existing marble toilet partitions and wainscot are being removed to better assess the condition of the brick basement walls behind and to allow the trapped moisture to dry. The restrooms are currently not usable and would require complete renovation in order to be placed back into operating condition. The marble panels will be turned over the USPS for a future use to be determined as this project does not include general interior renovation or restoration. The panels can certainly be reused for any number of applications as they are generally in good condition.

2. Keynote 6 – What are the proposed plans for replacing existing brick once it has been removed?

Response: The brick being removed is Common Red Brick that was used for a wide variety of general masonry construction. The brick in question was used as cover material to clad the steel structural columns. Some of this brick has cracked and spalled off most likely from rusty steel expanding and cracking the brick. We are including the brick removal in the work scope to allow for visual inspection of the column bases to determine the extent of rust damage and allow for suitable repairs. The brick will be removed in such a way as to attempt to salvage as much of the original brick as possible. This brick will be reinstalled once the appropriate steel repairs are made. New brick selected to match as close as possible to the existing will be used to replace existing brick that is damaged beyond reuse.

3. Keynote 10 – Is the existing door original to the structure and why does it need to be replaced with a metal door?

Response: The door referenced in Keynote 10 is an access door to the chimney located in the basement at the base of the chimney as a service access. It does appear that the door and fra me are original to the structure but it is not a fire rated door and the chimney extends the full height of the building as an open shaft. The current Florida Building Code requires that all shafts that extend vertically over multiple floors be constructed of a minimum of 2-hour fire rated construction. The brick chimney inherently meets that requirement but the openings do not have the required opening protective devices. These unprotected openings represent a potential fire hazard by providing an open pathway for f ire and smoke to travel vertically through the building. Therefore we have included removal of the existing door and frame and replacing them with a fire rated hollow metal frame and a 1-1/2 hour fire rated door that complies with code.

4. Keynote 31 – The wall grilles are proposed to be removed, the wall openings closed, and the grilles returned to original locations. Where are the original locations?

Investigative Study

Fernandina Beach,FL Finance Station USPS Project Number (FMS}: G37639

Page l

September 3, 2015


Response: The subjed wall grilles are elements of the original building ventilation system which is no longer operational and incompatible with modern HVAC systems. Some of the grills are located in restrooms and vent diredly into the chimney shaft. Others are located in old courtroom space and vent into wall cavities that conned vertically to the ventilation dudwork system that terminates in the attic. The grills will be removed, the wall openings closed to maintain fire rating requirements (refer to Item 4 above), and they will be returned to their existing (original) locations to maintain the original appearance. The note will be clarified and expanded in the 100% construction document package.

5. Keynotes 38 and 39 – I do have some concerns with altering the original roof construction and adding copper downspouts to the east and west elevations. However, after viewing the photographs of damage the existing system causes and the difficulty in maintaining it, I believe this is a reasonable solution that is compliant with the Standards and our guidelines. Our Downtown Historic District guidelines recommend that when new gutters are installed on historic buildings, half-round style be used, and that is what is proposed. Downspouts should be located on the least public building elevation. While the east and north elevations are the least public, the west elevation proposal does not appear to significantly impact the structure.

Response: It is important that gutters be provided around the entire perimeter of the roof and that downspouts be installed on the east and west sides. The building has a hip roof which pitches down on all four sides. Downspouts are necessary on both long sides of the building in order to provide proper drainage f or the gutter. It would not be strudurally pradical or architedurally appropriate to provide a gutter of a size large enough to eliminate the need for downspouts on the west side.

6. Keynote 41 – It appears the stucco will be repaired and patched as needed,having the coating only removed. Then the restored stucco, and I presume the entire building, is to have a 100% acrylic coating applied. Is this material breathable and has it been used successfully on other historic stucco structures? Iwould recommend the stucco be repaired in accordance with Technical Preservation Brief 22: The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stucco.

Response: Agree that the stucco should be repaired in accordance with TPB 22. This stucco is not formulated the same as modern cement stucco and must be repaired with like materials. The proposed waterproofing coating will most likely be BASF Thorocoat which is a 100% acrylic waterproofing coating that is permeable and will allow the stucco to breathe. It has been used often in similar applications.

7. Keynote 42 – Ensure paint removal is compliant with SOIS 7 regarding surface cleaning.

Response: Agreed.

8. Keynote 48 – It is recommended that a historically appropriate,lime-based mortar be used for any new repointing or mortar replacement.

Response: Agreed . It is important to use lime-based mortar for any repairs to the original masonry. Keynote 48 refers to the loading dock located on the east side of the building. This dock is not original to the building and of a design that is consistent with mid-1950’s to early 1960’s construdion. The actual construction date is not known at this time. It is constructed of modern type concrete masonry and cement mortar. All masonry repairs and repointing will be done with mortar types appropriate for the type and age of the masonry being repaired.

Source: Public record and plan/project details posted in the US Post Office on Centre Street/Fernandina

Comments are closed.