Thanks to a generous grant from The Rich Foundation, Historic Oakland Foundation’s PRO team was able to wrap up the final phase of restoration efforts on Jewish Hill earlier this year. The grant was broken down into three annual installments, so we were able to break down the scope of work into three phases. Phase I covered all of the critical projects, while Phases II and III focused on full-lot improvements working our way eastward up the hill.
One example of critical work in Phase I was a narrow, six-foot tall headstone on which the pins connecting it to the base had failed. Even a light push from anyone passing through could have resulted in the stone falling and causing harm. First, we carefully lifted the stone with double scaffolding, a chain hoist, and a monument clamp. Once the stone was removed, we removed the pins in the base which had rusted over from exposure to water. Once the pins were out and the holes cleaned, we leveled and lined up the base on a concrete pad. We then cut new stainless steel pins to length and installed them by putting epoxy in all four holes and then placing the pins and resetting the headstone onto them.
Phases II and III of the project covered full-lot improvements. We began with wall repairs and then moved on to headstones and footstones. There are hundreds of them on half-acre Jewish Hill, so we had to carefully plan how and when to execute a project. Block 284, for instance, is home to multiple family plots divided by marble or granite coping. Because some of the copings required a new concrete footer to be poured, we ended up having to remove all of the copings and some smaller headstones so that we had enough room to work.
Block 284 also included the restoration of a 20-foot, 5,000+ pound obelisk made up of seven different pieces. This was the largest and most complex monument we restored in 2018, requiring three sets of scaffolding, careful planning, and painstaking execution. We removed each piece and placed it far out of our way to keep the work area clean and open. Once we reached the last stone we were able to address the real issue, the failing concrete base. We also discovered a three-foot sinkhole underneath which certainly had led to the failure of the concrete base. After we removed the old base, we added dirt to bring the ground level back up to where it needed to be. From there, we used a pneumatic tamper to prepare the ground for 2,400 pounds of concrete. We allowed the concrete to cure for 48 hours, and then we reset each of the obelisk’s 7 stones, regularly checking to ensure they were level. After two full weeks, the obelisk stood proud once more, and we were able to continue working on the footers for the copings and complete rest of our restoration of block 284. The entire project was full of similar unexpected challenges and twists, and by the end of the three-year-project, we had learned some new skills and sharpened our old ones.
Jewish Hill presented many difficulties and challenges, but we overcame them all. We’re proud to say that today, all hardscape restoration is complete on Jewish Hill, and we’ll be finishing up the landscaping later this year. Without The Rich Foundation, our amazing staff and interns, and the general public, this wouldn’t have been possible. We’re very excited to move forward to new preservation endeavors and to continue making Atlanta proud!