Distinctive Design, Fabrication & Restoration for Interiors, Garden & Landscape

From the White House to the Lighthouse

Two recent commissions have taken us from the venerable ground of Washington D.C.  to the ephemeral terrain of New York Harbor.  

The first project- for First Lady Michelle Obama, in collaboration with the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the National Park Service-  included design engineering, fabrication and installation of Tables, Benches, and an Entry Arbor for her Legacy Kitchen Garden situated on the South Lawn of the White House.   The work was fabricated from a collection  of woods garnered from the Presidential estates of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, Dr. Martin Luther King's birth home, historic mansions, venerable barns and  farmsteads, recycled Napa Valley wine casks and Heinz pickle vats.  Rough-hewn timbers, beams, rafters and staves were re-sawed, machined to dimension, laminated, then combined with bronze tubing, steel legs and flitch plates to enhance structural integrity.  

All woodwork received multiple coats of a penetrating oil finish- highlighting the diverse color, figure and grain of the various species which reinforced the theme of the project.... "E Pluribus Unum."   The President and Mrs. Obama have since entertained various dignitaries, celebrities, friends and citizens in the garden,  as well as hosting events and celebrations for the First Lady's "Let's Move" initiative, which focuses on the health and well being of our nation's children.  A privately funded endowment has assured that her Legacy Garden will remain a permanent fixture on the South Lawn. It was an honor and privilege to participate in this rewarding project.

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Traversing from the terra firma of the People's House to a nautical site amidst New York Harbor,  the second project involves ongoing architectural restorations to the historic Robbins Reef Lighthouse. Constructed of cast iron and brick in 1883, this 'sparkplug'  lighthouse straddles a rocky shoal in the upper bay, framing a triangular axis with the Freedom Tower, Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  The ephemeral landscape of the reef changes twice daily with a tidal flux of over two meters, revealing and concealing it's rip-rap jetty and crescent landform.  At low tide a sandy beach appears, while at high tide all that remains is its proud rusticated granite block caisson defending against the persistent waves of the harbor.  The lighthouse was decommissioned and sealed shut by the US Coast Guard in 1966, and has since suffered considerable decay. Fortunately, it has been rescued and is now under the stewardship and concerned care of the Noble Maritime Collection. Although straddled by a thin budget and minimal funding, great progress has been accomplished by a stalwart Director and crew of dedicated volunteers.  Phase One, recently completed, included the removal of steel window panels; restoration of the interior walls, doors and floors; reproduction and restoration of original heart pine window sash, moldings, casings and millwork; and restoration of weathered exterior cast iron frames and sills.  Next, the exterior doors, caisson shutters and railings are slated for much-needed attention, and a redesigned arrival dock and access gangway will be fabricated. Once totally restored, the site will be used for educational purposes and private events, and shall continue it's prominence as a shining jewel in New York harbor.

Plank Road Studios