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Entranceway repairs open door to honoring a community pillar

The Witmer Group, a masonry contractor based in Mount Joy, is continuing remediation of the 22-year-old entrance fountains and repairs to the brick pillars surrounding Pennsylvania College of Technology’s main campus entrance – presenting an opportunity for well-wishers to honor the legacy of retiring President Davie Jane Gilmour.

The entrance and the capstoned pillars, linked by black fencing along Maynard Street and beyond, were dedicated in September 1999. That ceremony – a little more than a year after Gilmour assumed the college presidency – was the culmination of Penn College’s Diamond 10 anniversary, marking 85 years of education and a decade as a Penn State affiliate.

Caution flags line First Street, where remediation crews are working their way along the campus's landmark boundary.
Caution flags line First Street, where remediation crews are working their way along the campus’s landmark boundary.

With the president simultaneously announcing her June intent to retire and launching the Legacy Campaign for Penn College, a donor can pay tribute to decades of leadership by adding his or her name to one of 58 refurbished pillars. The pillars closest to the entrance can be named for $5,000 apiece; the others can be personalized for $3,000 each. Small, engraved nameplates will recognize donors.

“100% of the gift will go toward student scholarships, one of three pillars of the Legacy Campaign,” said Loni N. Kline, vice president for college relations. The other two campaign components are “equipment and facilities” and “academics and affinity,” other ways in which the president has left her mark on the institution.

Anyone interested in naming a pillar can contact the Penn College Foundation at 570-320-8020.

“Most of the campus perimeter piers were experiencing deterioration and were structurally unsound,” explained Jason K. Bogle, General Services’ director of construction and planning. “This was caused by water intrusion trapped within the brick veneer,” the yellow and red exterior bricks on each of the pillars that were originally designed to mirror the Bush Campus Center across College Avenue.

“The brick veneer on nearly every pier experienced cracking, delamination and efflorescence,” Bogle said, “and the open voids in the brick veneer caused by freezing and thawing created a direct path for the moisture and water to accelerate the damage.” A notable amount of water also penetrated the precast capstones, the protective coating of which wore away over time due to harsh weather.

Bogle said the extensive project involves removal of all exposed brick veneer, removal and cleaning of all precast capstones, application of an elastomeric coating to waterproof those caps, repair and dampproofing of the block walls behind the brick veneer (the black inner part that still stands at the core of each pillar), and installation of precast stone bases and new ground-face finish block veneer.

All-weather supporters of the college, The Witmer Group has endured some steamy summer days restoring the entrance fountains.
All-weather supporters of the college, The Witmer Group has endured some steamy summer days restoring the entrance fountains.

If conditions permit, the perimeter work will be completed in October. The fountain remediation, on which Witmer crews have also worked all summer, is expected to wrap up early this month.

“The fountain had a notable amount of water that was coming through the interior coating and was wicking into the exterior brick face,” Bogle said. “Over time, this was causing damage to the entire masonry-constructed walls and coatings.” The west end of the fountain sustained major damage and displacement of granite panels, and a significant portion of the concrete wall’s exterior cement finish was damaged and delaminating.

Remediation efforts have entailed removal and repair of all damaged masonry; removal of the existing interior liner’s coating system; repair of all damaged surfaces and cracks; installation of a polymer-modified, highly flexible cementitious membrane system; removal and replacement of caulking; repointing and repair of all masonry; and cleaning of the fountain’s surfaces.

Witmer regularly recruits Penn College graduates and established The Witmer Group Scholarship to benefit full-time students in building construction technology, which includes masonry students.

– Photos by Bogle and Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer



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