Kehoe Iron Works Rehabilitation 

Project Location:

 

660 E. Broughton Street

National Historic Landmark District

Savannah, GA

 

Client:

 

Randolph Street Development, LLC

 

Type of Services:

 

Historic Preservation, Rehabilitation, Architecture, Engineering, Construction Administration

Date Completed:

 

2017

Awards:

 

2019 Marguerite Williams Award, 

Excellence in Rehabilitation

Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation

2018 AIA Georgia People's Choice Award

2018 Historic Savannah Foundation  President's Award

2018 Building Design + Construction Magazine Gold, Reconstruction Award

 

 

 

 

A 6.3 acre brownfield, vacant for over 28 years at the northeast corner of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District, the rehabilitation of the Kehoe Iron Works at Trustees’ Garden represents the strong vision of a Savannah business leader, the culmination of four years of construction, and the efforts and talents of numerous contractors, architects, engineers, historians, and craftspeople.


Now home to a multi‐use event and conference complex, the Kehoe Iron Works project successfully restores a forgotten Savannah landmark and fills a void in the event and performing arts market for full service mid‐size venues.


Struggling for many years as a vacant site plagued by environmental concerns related to its use as an iron foundry and later as a gas company complex, the Kehoe Iron Works seemed doomed for eternal neglect and abandonment.


An adjacent property owner, Mr. Charles H. Morris, purchased the Kehoe Iron Works in 2004. Thoughtful and thorough, Mr. Morris’ generosity of time, attention, and resources made a
challenging and complex project possible. Suffering from significant deterioration, it was determined at project outset that the historic metal Machine Shop building would be renovated first. One of the last buildings built of Carnegie Steel, the Machine Shop was finished in 1902 and housed the machining functions of the neighboring Kehoe Iron Works foundry. Unique in that it is the only metal clad building in Savannah’s Landmark District, the complex’s abandonment had been the least kind to this structure, as entire sections of cladding were missing, leaving its internal organs exposed.


With several columns rusted and dangling from the truss system above, the first step was the removal of the building’s cladding and initiation of structural stabilization. This included splicing historic columns with new base material and restoring the building’s steel framing and truss system. Maintaining the building’s industrial aesthetic, a polished concrete floor was installed and black and gray finishes were incorporated throughout. The building’s roughly 7,000 square foot open floor plan was preserved and a subsurface modern addition was added north of the building, taking advantage of the site’s sloping topography. This allowed for the integration of a full‐service catering kitchen below grade that was diminutive to the historic structures and capped by a terrace, capitalizing on views of the Savannah River beyond. Outside of the historic footprint, restrooms were added to the shop’s smithy annex addition, clad in corrugated metal salvaged from the historic exterior of the Machine Shop.


The building’s original form and continuous monitor were preserved, central rosettes recreated in each gable end, new true divided light wood windows installed as those that remained were beyond repair, and its historic brick foundation repointed and reused.

 

While the Machine Shop was stabilized, the complex’s more visible masonry Foundry buildings to the west patiently awaited restoration. The westernmost building, dating to 1873, originally stood alone. Acquired by William Kehoe in 1883, Kehoe constructed the central office tower and two‐story chipping and fitting and pattern storage building east of this structure, allowing the three to read as one.

 

Known as the Foundry, these buildings feature significant iron detailing, much of which bears the Kehoe name; beautiful jack arches in brick; and a central mansard roof with decorative cornice, dormers, and replica widow’s walk, capping the site.

 

Throughout the project, documentation and research served as the backbone of all work performed. Initial building stabilization involved removing numerous unoriginal elements to include an incompatible addition as well as infill brick and CMU that had been added throughout the complex. Saving the 1873 foundry for restoration at a later date, this building’s openings were restored and secured with replica shutters clad in zinc, which were installed on the building’s original iron shutter hinges.


Structural examination revealed that the central tower’s historic footings were shallow and insufficient, unsuitable for its continued preservation. As a result, new concrete footings set below the historic masonry footings were installed, a challenging structural task.

 

With the removal of the circa 1960 frame addition north of the building’s historic tower, this area was determined the best location for a necessary new addition. Sensitively incorporating an elevator and circulatory stair without detriment to the historic building’s material and layout, the new contemporary addition is clad in zinc and glass and allows for the clear delineation of new versus old. From within, visitors can enjoy 180 degree views of the site and river beyond and appreciate the building’s exterior façade, now an interior element. Integral to its success, the addition is completely self‐supported through the use of steel framed to hover above and match the slope of the neighboring historic rooflines to the east and west.

 

Today, the Foundry complex is home to a green room, teaching kitchen, and conference spaces.
Throughout the building’s interior, historic elements were preserved whenever possible to include the repointing of historic brick walls, repair and reuse of historic wood windows, and the restoration of fluted iron columns to include the casting of a new column to match. Within the teaching kitchen, a reclaimed wood ceiling set between rafters was added over insulation to mimic previously exposed roof boards, allowing for the preservation of the building’s historic cornice configuration. On the exterior, the tower’s historic metal mansard roof and its historic dormers were restored, and a replica widow’s walk and chimney cap reconstructed, informed by historic photographs. Both the widow’s walk and the building’s Broughton Street entry porch showcase the Kehoe name as they did historically.


With the ability to host multiple simultaneous events both indoors and out, an underground storage facility was added just north of the 1873 foundry building. Integral for the success of events, this back of house space is camouflaged by a terrace above and ticketing windows to the east.


Intent on leaving a lasting community legacy, Mr. Morris’ strong vision and historic preservation ethic has brought back to life what was long a forgotten and abandoned section of the landmark district and an important piece of Savannah’s industrial, cultural, and architectural history.

 

Background: Ellis Square, photo by Attic Fire

 

© 2014 Lominack Kolman Smith Architects, LLP

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