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MU Column bases undergo repairs to fix cracks

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
A worker repairs cracks in the base of a column, wrapped in plastic, on Francis Quadrangle on Tuesday. A fence was erected on Monday to enclose the area.

COLUMBIA — The concrete bases of the historic MU Columns are undergoing repairs to fix hairline fractures.

The damages are the result of water getting inside small cracks. When the water freezes inside the cracks, it expands, causing the cracks to get bigger.

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"We don't want the hairline fractures to become big cracks," said Karlan Seville, campus facilities communications manager. "We're trying to prevent that."

The cost for the repairs by International Architects Atelier Inc. in Kansas City are estimated at $178,371.

The original bases were replaced in 1949, Seville said in an e-mail, and no significant repairs have taken place since then. The current repairs include putting fiber around the bases and adding a concrete layer to protect the bases from future cracking. The bases will be evaluated every few years to make sure no further repairs are necessary.

The limestone MU Columns themselves are not undergoing any repairs.

"They're really in excellent shape considering their age and the fact that they've been out in the elements all this time," said Peter Millier, director of landscape services and Mizzou Botanic Garden.

In the past, the MU Columns, as well as several buildings on Francis Quadrangle, were covered in ivy. This was originally done to make the campus look more like an ivy league school, Millier said.

The ivy was removed, however, because it damages the structures. Its roots grow into the mortar, where it will continue growing and cracking the mortar. All of the ivy was removed by the end of the 1980s, according to an e-mail from Gary Cox, reference archivist for the University Archives.

The MU Columns were originally part of Academic Hall, which was built between 1840 and 1843. Academic hall burned down on Jan. 9, 1892, in an electrical fire.


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Comments

Ellis Smith June 9, 2010 | 7:34 a.m.

Have the columns ever been treated with an agent to retard effects of weathering/air pollution?

Limestone is not the best natural material for ultimate weather/pollution resistance. It was extensively used in the 19th Century partly because it ws easy to work with methods then available. Today the choice would be granite, which has been used at another UM System campus.

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover June 9, 2010 | 9:01 a.m.

I don't know whether they've been treated. But I can have the reporter, Emily Smoucha, ask.
Tom Warhover
executive editor

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 9, 2010 | 11:00 a.m.

@ Tom Warhover

It might be of general interest. The effects of natural weathering and/or pollution are worldwide concerns of those charged with preservation of natural and man-made structures. In the United States many situations are a concern of National Parks Service. We have a large number of "monuments," some natural and others man-made.

An interesting situation is adobe structures (or their partial remains) at Fort Union in northeastern New Mexico. Adobe is a "perishable" construction material, requiring regular maintenance, but the NPS has chosen not to do that. Instead, existing portions of the adobe structures that once were the fort have been chemically "stabilized" to retard disintegration, but will be allowed to disintegrate until nothing remains.

(Report Comment)
Emily Smoucha June 9, 2010 | 3:42 p.m.

Ellis-
When I was writing this story, I didn't find any information about the columns being treated to prevent weathering. However, I will try to find out for you.
Emily Smoucha
Reporter

(Report Comment)
Emily Smoucha June 9, 2010 | 4:24 p.m.

Ellis-
According to Campus Facilities, they have not been treated in any way.
Emily Smoucha

(Report Comment)

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