History in Caring Hands

When viewing the beautiful skylines throughout Texas, you see new modern buildings mixed with historic landmarks, showcasing the state’s growth and rich traditions. Each has a special place in the culture and vibrance of a city.

Texas Fifth Wall Roofing has been trusted with the roofs of these skylines for 50 years, bringing unique expertise to both new and old buildings alike. When it comes to historical buildings, however, re-roofing, maintenance, and protection add an extended level of care and significance to our work.

When we take on a historical landmark project, we understand the importance of our work and the special care we take. Historical landmarks require a higher level of expertise in sourcing materials, skillsets, workmanship, and the ability to partner with architects, contractors, and historical societies.

Here are a couple of examples of our historical work in San Antonio:

McNay Art Museum

Location: San Antonio
Project: Tile Repair

The McNay Art Museum is a Spanish colonial revival style building built in 1927, which has been home to the museum since 1954 when it was founded as the first modern art museum in Texas. The McNay sits on 23 beautiful acres landscaped with fountains, a Japanese-inspired garden, and a fishpond.

The Challenges: With deteriorated wood decking, fascia, and support braces at various locations, repair to the McNay roof was essential. This repair also extended to installing a new underlayment which required removing the existing tile. The Spanish tile was more than 30 years old yet still in excellent condition and a focal piece of the historic structure. So, the first challenge was removing the tile without damage because it would be reinstalled.

Secondly, it was essential to match the existing exteriors when replacing the decorative wood bracing (rafter tails). And finally, the McNay’s landscape is art within itself, so special care was necessary to avoid any misstep with heavy equipment that could damage the park-like peaceful setting.

The Solutions: When tiles are going to be reinstalled, you must take extra care in removing them and avoiding walking on them as you work on the roof. To delicately remove the tiles, we utilized a boom lift with two men, who were tied off to follow proper safety protocols. They carefully removed each tile and staged it in wooden boxes mounted to an all-terrain forklift, and then lowered them to the ground to avoid walking on the individual tiles.

The most challenging aspect of the project was replacing the old decorative rafter tails. These pieces are not purchased from a typical box store but are custom ordered. With supply chain issues prevalent, a special custom order for the rafter tails would have pushed the project completion date well past the anticipated deadline. So, our in-house craftsmen hand-fabricated the new rafter tails at our San Antonio office, and they matched the historical décor to perfection.

Emily Morgan

Location: San Antonio
Project: Replace Cooper Art Deco Roof

The Emily Morgan Hotel building has towered above the Alamo since 1924, and today it is recognized by Historic Hotels of America. The building was originally constructed as the Medical Arts Building on the Alamo Plaza and became a hotel in 1984. The 13-story tower is influenced by Gothic Revival architecture and features cast iron pieces, unique ornamentation, and a copper roof with wood ribs. Perhaps the most interesting architectural feature of the building is the array of gargoyles that line the building, each portraying a medical ailment.

The Challenges: When a copper Art Deco-style roof is 91 years old, is an iconic showpiece of a building, and is overdue for replacement, you have a few obstacles to overcome. The clear mandate was to preserve the history of the building. To adhere to the Office of Historic Preservation guidelines, the new roof had to be the exact replica of the original.

But when you added the angle and the height of the roof to the project, the challenges multiplied. This included replacing 5,000 square feet of unique copper sheeting atop the 13-story building sitting at a 67-degree angle. The project needed a roofing contractor that understood and had the skillsets to take on the job but also brought a significant level of consultative partnership to the architect and contractor. Texas Fifth Wall Roofing Systems proudly answered the challenge.

The Solutions: The Material – The copper sheeting replacement was so unique that only a handful of suppliers still manufactured it, which meant it had to be shipped from the East Coast and required a roofing contractor with the expertise to work with the unique material. The copper came in large rolls, hauled to the top in the hotel elevator. Our craftsmen hand-fabricated the sheets on the roof, installing them in the original manner of crimping to ensure every facet adhered to strict historical standards. Sheet metal work presents the usual hazards like sharp edges, unwieldy pieces, and hot to the touch in the sunshine. This project added the glare from the copper material. Not only is copper extremely long-lasting, but it is also renowned for the attractive patina that mellows to a rich brown over years of wear in the Texas region. As it arrives new from the factory, the material has a highly reflective mirror-like finish that is blinding in the sunlight. To help mitigate the glare, our team used shaded fit-over safety glasses in addition to sunglasses.

The Pitch – The 67-degree angle of the Emily Morgan roof prevented workers from standing on the roof deck. While working from a safety harness addresses fall hazards, we used work seats along with rotating crew members frequently to prevent suspension trauma that can result from harness compression of veins that interferes with blood circulation.