Waterproofing Monticello, 1953

Published:May 4, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

In an item titled “Monticello’s Waterproofer” and published on August 1, 1953, the New Yorker interviewed Mr. Charles Brisk, president of the Brisk Waterproofing Company in New York, about his new client, Monticello:

We asked why the job was special, and Mr. Brisk summoned the vice-president in charge of it, Millard F. Bird. “It’s a question of restoring masonry that has been damaged by weather,” Mr. Bird said. No substantial restoration work has ever been done on the house before. The brickwork has deteriorated from weathering. There was no cement in the days when Monticello was built, and a century and a half of rain has washed out parts of the old mortar. We’re removing decayed brick and replacing it with sound brick. Mr. Jefferson himself was an early waterproofer. He treated his bricks, which were made on the property, with what he called tree oil—pine-tree sap—which turned many of them a kind of salmon color. We’ll treat the new bricks used as replacements with pine oil, too. We’re sending five of our best men down. The work will have to be done with the precision of a dentist, otherwise the bricks will get chipped or cracked. There’s the problems of removing broken bricks—it’s very difficult to remove a single brick from a wall—and the delicate one of matching new mortar to the old. We have no deadline on the job, but I estimate it will take three or four months.”

IMAGE: Jefferson’s Monticello by flickr user John P. C.