Travels with Larry: The National Cathedral School
11 Jul 2017
While visiting the iconic Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital, I noticed a beautiful neoclassical or beaux-arts structure discreetly hidden behind a neat row of shrubs off Wisconsin Avenue NW.
Hearst Hall is part of the National Cathedral School, a private day school for girls founded in 1897 by Phoebe Apperson Hearst. She endowed $200,000 to the school leaders with a simple charge of offering a “quality education” for young women.
When the school opened in 1900, classes were held in the ornate, shiny copper-detailed Hearst Hall. Judging by the rate of patination of the copper details, such as along the peaks of the buildings and flashings around the skylights, they have been in place for decades.
Copper is a relatively active metal which, when left unprotected, tends to oxidize. Long-term atmospheric exposure generally results in the formation of the naturally protective gray-green patina, like what can be seen on Hearst Hall. In industrial and seacoast atmospheres, such as Washington, D.C., the natural patina generally forms in seven to 15 years.
While many of the copper elements of Hearst Hall are decades old, some of the ornate dormers have been recently replaced, which explains their rich brown hue. This is par for the course for a building over 100 years old, especially for complex building installations such as these. In many cases, the replacement of copper roofing sections or details is the result of underlying issues with other parts of the assembly.
Hearst Hall is just another example of the fine architectural examples that you can stumble upon in cities across North America.