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No to steel. No to wood. Yes to synthetic slate. That was the verdict of the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) when presented with options for reroofing the historic Pipestone County Courthouse.
Because the courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, it falls under the SHPO to approve any materials used when renovating the 1901 structure.
“We sent several roof samples to SHPO to review and they were turned down,” says Steve Ewing, Pipestone County administrator. “They requested we match as closely as possible to the scale, texture and coloration of the original roof.
“Only when we provided samples of Bellaforté Slate did we gain approval. The SHPO responded positively that the synthetic slate had the historic look and coloring that was the most appropriate choice for our historic building.
“They also appreciated the 50-year material warranty on the DaVinci Roofscapes product. With weather conditions being so challenging in Minnesota, it means a lot to have a product warranty that will last for five decades!”
As Ewing discovered, the most challenging part of reroofing a historic building can be working through the steps to gain material acceptance. Historians are eager to protect the architectural look of the Beaux Arts style building with its Renaissance dome on a clock tower.
Taking a step back, Ewing recalls that the current asphalt shingles had been in place on the courthouse since 1997. “In recent years strong winds tore off many of the shingles,” says Ewing. “They were also becoming brittle. We saw some signs of leaking, so we knew it was time to find a new roof.
“In our initial product proposal stage, the SHPO said they would allow a three- to five-tab asphalt shingle again on the structure. However, once we found the Bellaforté Slate product it changed our minds. The look is so authentic to real slate that we decided to submit it for consideration. Our request was quickly approved.”
To spearhead the project, Pipeline County hired MLC Construction, out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“Jason Mathiesen and his team made the process quite easy,” says Ewing. “Once they supplied samples of the Bellaforté Slate that gained approval from the SHPO, the project sailed along.”
Right from the start Mathiesen recommended the Smokey Gray color in the synthetic slate profile. The color was chosen since it closely resembles the roof color when the building was originally designed in 1899 by architect George Pass. The roofing color nicely contrasts the natural pink quartzite on the rectangular-shaped structure.
With the Bellaforté product and color approved, the MLC Builds team started the truly hard work. They used lift units to work on the roof 40 feet in the air. Despite windy days, the crew finished the project in just under three weeks.
“The tear off was as clean a process as possible,” says Ewing. “The crew was dedicated to keeping the area safe. They worked long days and weekends to complete the project very quickly and safely.”
According to Mathiesen, it actually helped doing the project during the pandemic. “The courthouse was open by appointment only due to COVID-19,” says Mathiesen. “So, the typical hustle and bustle of a building like this was not an issue at all.
“The employee parking lot was available for staging. We used large pieces of equipment to reach almost four stories up to the eaves and all the flashing detail work. Most importantly, we focused on handling the work with skill, safety and enough time to get the job done right.”
Now complete, the roof is getting rave reviews.
“Many people tell me how authentic the roof looks,” says Ewing. “Pipestone County will certainly consider DaVinci roofing products for any future projects. And, we’ll also recommend the installation skills of MLC Builds. They helped this project move swiftly and safely to recapture the original look of our historic courthouse.”
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