Preserving the Chimney Caps

When Caroline Sinclair hired builders to construct her home, she was able to draw upon a pool of laborers and artisans whose accomplishments still impress visitors over a century later.

The details of the architecture — from small ornamental elements to the differentiation of the five fireplace chimneys — reflect a craftsmanship that is difficult to imagine replicating today.

In true Queen Anne style, none of the five massive, limestone chimney caps matched any other. After decades of harsh Iowa weather, the caps exhibited deterioration that was both aesthetically distracting and physically hazardous.

Small flakes and chips of the monoliths began separating and falling upon the slate roof. In 1994, contractors wrapped the caps with nylon netting to catch spalling stone until the caps could be restored.

The restoration began in 1995 with repointing the brick chimneys and replicating the limestone tops. The original caps had deteriorated to such poor condition that repairing them was impractical.

The new caps, custom cut from identical material to match the originals exactly, each weigh approximately 3,500 pounds. Workers removed the failing pieces section by section, inspected the chimney structure and reinforced it where necessary, before carefully re-assembling the new caps atop the 1886 chimneys.