December 2004

Jefferson Millwork

& Design>

Sterling, VA

Year Founded: 1990 Employees: 67

Shop Size: 32,000 square feet

FYI: Jefferson Millwork was featured in CWB February 2003 for its post 9/11 Pentagon restoration work.

Millwork for a 'Mesa on the Mall'

A Washington, DC-area company fabricates architectural millwork, case goods and cabinetry for the newest Smithsonian museum.

By Lisa Whitcomb

For the past 21?2 years, Jefferson Millwork & Design of Sterling, VA, has been hard at work fabricating a new part of American history - high-end architectural millwork for the National Mall's newest museum. The National Museum of the American Indian, which opened Sept. 21, 2004 is a "living memorial" dedicated to honoring 1,000 native cultures, both modern and past, of the north, south and central Americas.

Negotiations for the project took about a year after Jefferson Millwork & Design's owners Michael Corrigan and Mark Howe were asked to bid on the project. "Jefferson Millwork is known throughout the Capital for its complex millwork capabilities," Corrigan says, adding, "Our forte is designing and building radius and unusually shaped pieces. This talent was a nice fit for a building that required natural shapes in its design."

Its design inside and out emulates shapes found in nature and utilizes a natural color pallette. The $199 million, five-story museum features a curvaceous, stratified kasota limestone facade that emulates the undulating cliffs of the Southwest "that have been carved over time by wind and water," says the museum's Office of Public Affairs.

L: The museum's circular Main Theater seats 322 people. Radiused beech and maple veneer vertical wall panels encompass the area.

R: This "canyon" wall on the main floor is comprised of 3,500 maple slats.>

Bringing a natural environment indoors

Some of the natural features found inside the museum's interior include gray granite flooring, bronze and copper architectural accents, shell inlays, adzed alder and cedar panels, beech veneers, and maple and beech flooring.

The essence of the Native American people's ideals can be seen in every detail. For instance, in the Main Theater, Project Engineer Clyde Kellogg produced and engineered more than 50 drawings in addition to a considerable amount of programming just for this one main feature of the museum. The engineering, fabrication and installation in this area included patterned vertical maple and beech wood slats on the encompassing radiused wall. Also in the Main Theater are radiused movable stage panels that are fabric-wrapped with applied maple and beech hardwood slats on a radius steel frame; an I-beam track and trolley system; two sloping main entrance portals, which are 5 feet 6 inches wide by 3 feet deep by 10 feet high, fabricated with adzed alder facing; and radius stage stairs with a removable stage plug.

All of the wood throughout the project had to be treated with a fire-retardant solution and then topcoated with M.L. Campbell's Krystall, a conversion varnish that is a chemical-resistant, non-yellowing coating. To retain the natural look of the wood, which was required by the architectural teams, the coating was flattened to a 10-degree sheen.

Found in the museum's ground-level foyer are "canyon" walls that frame the upper part of the corridor leading into the Mitsitam Cafe. There are 3,500 maple slats making up the walls. Inside the cafe are radiused, burnished brass serving stations, cashier stands and islands. The serving stations were fabricated by Architectural Wood of Roanoke,VA.

Jefferson fabricated and installed millwork in the museum's two retail stores, The Chesapeake Store on the ground level and The Roanoke Store on the second floor. The Chesapeake Store millwork consists mainly of beech veneer radiused back counters, segmented beech veneer jewelry counters, display benches and a wood kiosk. The tops for the back counters, kiosk and display benches are fabricated from adzed alder with alder hardwood edging and "wampum" (shell) inlay recessed in the display bench edging.

The Roanoke Store contains more of the same radiused millwork and alder material, but it also includes approximately 1,100 square feet of adzed red cedar wall panels along a 145-foot-long convex and concave wall. This wall also includes two Native American symbol hand carvings in the corners. The cedar is old growth, and the ring count indicated that these trees were more than 600 years old. Some of the store's cabinetry also is accentuated with shell inlay. "We routed out the channels for the inlay," notes Jefferson Millwork & Design's project manager, Michael Almond.

In addition, Jefferson Millwork & Design also engineered, laid out, fabricated and installed the millwork for the Lelawi Theater. Robert Burdette, project engineer, not only engineered the conical radius beech wall panel that encompasses this circular room, radius seat risers and built-in wall display cases, but also directed the coordination and layout for other subcontractors so fabrication of the millwork could begin prior to obtaining actual field dimensions or templates for this room. According to Almond, Burdette continually provided templates and layout throughout the entire project for the coordination and accuracy of all millwork installation in conjunction with the other trades.

Setting a tone for the natural look of the museum's interior, the exterior is clad in Kasota dolomitic limestone. >

Doing Whatever it Takes

Outside the gallery areas on the third and fourth floors are lighted collection cases made of stainless steel and aluminum with anti-reflective glass. The drawers have a special locking mechanism that prevent visitors from having more than one drawer in a bank open at the same time.

These segmented cases were originally subcontracted to another display casework manufacturer by Jefferson Millwork. Unfortunately, well into the project that manufacturer admitted that he could not complete the display cases on time. So, Almond says, Jefferson Millwork stepped in and took on the case construction.

"Since we were contractually obligated to furnish these custom metal cases, our shop became not only a high-end millwork fabricator, but also a custom metal fabricating manufacturer. The completion of these artifacts cases included custom metal painting, which was provided by Crider's Finishing, as well as engineering of the locking system requirements and a lighting system within the drawers themselves that switch on once the drawers are opened halfway. Additional design considerations involved the use of security screws, and formaldehyde and chemical-free components that would not offgas and cause possible damage to the artifacts," Almond says.

"While this additional and unusual type of work caused problems within our scheduled production, our shop personnel pooled their talents and worked the extra time that was required to get these cases completed. We had made a commitment to the general contractor and the Smithsonian that we would step in and do what was necessary to get these units completed." he adds.

"As a project manager, this is a situation you hope you are never confronted with. I was very fortunate to have capable individuals such as Robert and Clyde step up in areas that typically they are not involved in, plus a production management and crew, led by Steve Seger and Allen Cloud, that would take on something entirely out of the realm of millwork. In addition, our installation company, Dale Lacy Inc., gave me unlimited resources in getting these units completed. This job was a success because of the employees in the shop that worked it and moved it through the shop."

Almond adds he would definitely take on a project of this magnitude again, but not for a while. "There is quite a bit of risk you take on with a job this size. You evolve into it and find yourself being resourceful," says owner Michael Corrigan. "In the end, the client was pleased and we got a lot of kudos from the owners and the architect. Now we are prequalified to work on other Smithsonian museums."

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