Treanor Architects Blog/News

Details make the building

2015-06-16 Posted By: Patty Weaver

What gives a historic building its defining character? It may be the era, the type of building—but often, it’s what’s inside that captures the imagination.

While some buildings are purely functional, for many of our country’s oldest buildings, the purpose is larger, and this story is told through the details and finishes of their interiors. Government buildings were intended to convey the importance of democracy. Libraries were intended to make learning accessible to all. Our cities’ most iconic buildings carry a sense of community history.

Architectural details at the Dillon House

They are treasures of metal work, marble, intricate plaster details, decorative painting and ornamental trims. A grand staircase. Fine wood wainscoting. Intricately painted murals.

For example, entering the Oklahoma Capitol Building, which will undergo interior restoration beginning in 2016, a visitor is greeted with open rotundas connected by marble staircases, a space of luxe materials and intricate detail.

During the building’s construction, The Daily Oklahoman described it this way: “Visitors are now able to comprehend in an imaginative way the wonderful architectural beauty of the edifice as it will be when completed, especially as they stand on the basement floor at one of the entrances.  The Oklahoma Capitol will invite future visitors with an impression of monumental loftiness.”

“In a historic building, a lot of thought was put into details that you are seeing from 100 feet away— shadows, highlights, one extra stroke of metallic finish that creates the perception of depth on a wall,” says Todd Renyer, architect with Treanor Architects Preservation studio. 

Playing historic detective. Interior preservation isn’t just restoring what is worn or has suffered neglect over time. It means uncovering details and design features that building owners might not be aware of—those hidden under a coat of paint, dropped ceiling or modern “update.” It may also mean reconstructing original details that have been removed or repairing well-intentioned “fixes” from the past.

Historic photos, floor plans and documentation are a good place to start, along with physical exploration of the building itself. Detective work may involve nondestructive or destructive investigative techniques, from removing cover plates and lights to creating an exposure window to remove paint one layer at a time.

Architectural details at the Kansas Statehouse

Testing can help to determine the condition and age of finishes and a path to restoration. Historic metals, for example, tarnish over time; they may need gentle cleaning and new lacquers or protective layers. Copper-plated cast iron or painted metals can be damaged by corrosive housekeeping processes or age, and may need tinted lacquer or waxes to restore their appearance. Marble floors often have scratches and chips, and need partial repair or full restoration.

Old light fixtures can be brought up to standard by repairing internal parts and using catalogue reproduction fixtures. Cracks in plaster, from time or electrical installation, can be patched and blended. Crown molding damaged by water and decorative paint techniques can be recreated.

Sometimes, you find more than expected. At the Kansas Statehouse, workmen repairing a leaky ceiling in the House of Representatives chambers revealed a hidden mural. When test scrapes showed there were actually four murals, a full-scale art restoration began, says Jeff Russell, who served as Kansas’ legislative services director at the time.

“It is the interior beauty of this building that is the showstopper, and with this restoration, we honor the building, its history and the work that happens there,” says Russell. “In a building like this, perhaps you’ll stand a little straighter and listen a little more. It takes people’s breath away.”

Choosing what to restore. Historically, the more opulent and high quality finishes, such as metals, marble and oak, were used in public spaces, with private spaces finished in simpler materials. “Today, we do the same and often spend money where most people would see it,” says Renyer. “We start with classification of spaces by historic significance. The highest level of integrity rises to a higher level of preservation. Lower significances are not treated with the same rules.”

It’s a careful dance between what historic standards require, the level of importance of individual features, the budget and additional project goals. In restoring the Dillon House, a prominent Topeka mansion, for its corporate headquarters, real estate development firm Pioneer Group (Topeka, KS) wanted to showcase its historic rehabilitation work, as well as create offices and hospitality spaces for the growing company.

“We wanted to achieve a thing of beauty,” says President Ross Freeman, who chose the building in part because he felt a personal connection to it and its creator. That required an investment in the building’s rich finishes, from oak hardwood floors and fireplaces in the upstairs offices to the grand staircase and a library of stained glass windows featuring English authors and poets. “When they cleaned those windows for the first time in 104 years, the colors came alive,” Freeman recalls.

History as identity. Often, historic details can take on a life of their own—inspiring private building owners and public citizens alike. They may even become part of a brand identity for the building occupant.

That’s what happened in Pittsburg, Kansas, where a restoration and expansion of the community’s Carnegie library revealed the historic significance of its Prairie architecture. Today, those distinct Prairie details are a part of the library’s identity— appearing on its letterhead, signage and throughout daily library life.

When viewed through the lens of history and preservation, paying close attention to interior finishes is an opportunity to revive the context of our historic buildings and pass that on to future generations. The end result is more than a decision to repair an alabaster railing, reclaim a painted rotunda or find room in a budget for hardwood floors.

“A state capitol, for example, was never meant to be ‘just a building.’ It’s a piece of art and a showpiece for our state. It is our front door to the world,” says Trait Thompson, project manager for Oklahoma’s Capitol Renovation. “In restoring it, you’ve just saved an integral part of your culture.”

COMING SOON: We’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the interior finishes that define our most treasured historic buildings. Watch for future emails to help you make the most of yesterday’s interiors.

ALSO READ: Investing in the past for the future

Investing in the past for the future

2015-06-16 Posted By: Patty Weaver

A well-thought-out interior preservation effort is more than a capital expense. It’s an investment that can pay off well into the future.

Materials used in 100+ year-old buildings—hardwoods, marble, stone—have already stood the test of time. With the right restoration and maintenance plan, they can easily last another 100 years or more.

During your project, your preservation team will conduct a thorough investigation, leaving you with a comprehensive history that helps you to better understand the significance of your building and how (and why) it was originally designed and constructed.

“As preservation architects, our intent is never to create a false sense of significance. It is to highlight the original architectural features,” says Vance Kelley, principal with Treanor Architects Preservation studio. “We can also help control the budget through thorough investigation.”

For example, when examining a dropped ceiling added for duct installation, you’ll be able to confirm upfront whether a decorative ceiling hides there or whether that space was not meant to be seen. You’ll have clear cost estimates for knowns like marble floor repairs, although unknowns, such as what’s inside aging plaster walls, will be less clear. In all cases, an experienced preservation architect can tell you where specialized craftspeople are required and where you can save money by using non-specialty builders

While your budget may not allow for every single detail that you would love to restore, with clear-cut goals and a practical plan, you can set priorities, make smart decisions and end up with an interior that feels true to its time period.

As your team documents how individual finishes have been restored or replaced, and what levels of maintenance will keep them in fine condition, you’re left not just with a sparkling restoration. You also have the critical information you need to plan for ongoing maintenance and repairs.

“A historic building that’s neglected is like the $100,000 Mercedes that you aren’t cleaning,” says Jeff Russell, who served as legislative services director during the Kansas Statehouse restoration. “It is up to us to take care of what our forefathers have created.”

A carefully crafted preservation effort makes that possible—today and well into the future.

COMING SOON: We’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the interior finishes that define our most treasured historic buildings. Watch for future emails to help you make the most of yesterday’s interiors.

ALSO READ: Details make the building

How far will we go for preservation?

2015-06-12 Posted By: Patty Weaver

5ICCH Program & Abstracts Cover

All the way to the City by the Lake! Treanor Architects’ Julia Manglitz, project manager, and Vance Kelley, principal, recently travelled to Chicago, Illinois to present a paper they co-authored at the 5th International Congress on Construction History.

The International Congress on Construction History takes place every three years with the 5th International Congress on Construction History (5ICCH) being the first held outside of Europe. The first four took place in Madrid, Spain (2003), Cambridge, England (2006), Cottbus, Germany (2009), and Paris, France (2012). At the 5ICCH, 222 sessions were presented by academics and industry professionals from 26 different countries.

In their paper, “Cleverly Concealed: The Truth Behind Victorian Era Butter Joint Running Bond,” Julia and Vance examined the Victorian-era bricklaying method in the United States, specifically the Midwest. The intent of the butter joint running bond method was to showcase façade ornamentation by minimizing the visual effect of mortar joints and using concealed headers to tie the outer wythe of brick to the load bearing walls. Manglitz and Kelley also identified common condition issues, causes and repairs associated with the method that was used on high-style buildings.

“Cleverly Concealed” was published in Volume 2 of the  set of Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on Construction History and is available for purchase through 5ICCH.

A figure from the paper demonstrates running bond using concealed headers.A figure from the paper demonstrates running bond using concealed headers.

Kansas Statehouse Wins 2015 Copper in Architecture Award

2015-05-15 Posted By: Patty Weaver

Yesterday, the State of Kansas, JE Dunn Construction, Stuart Dean Company and Treanor Architects were presented the North American Copper in Architecture Award for their restoration of the Kansas Statehouse’s intricate copper inner dome.

The Kansas Statehouse was among only 12 projects in North America to be acknowledged for the use of architectural copper and copper alloys. The award was presented by the Copper Development Association and the Canadian Copper & Brass Development Association (CCBDA), the organizations that sponsor the awards program, at a special event held during the 2015 AIA National Convention in Atlanta, Ga.

An excerpt from the award application describes the inner dome: “The capitol displays exquisite decorative metal work throughout the building, of which the inner dome’s copper metal work is a prime example. The underside of the inner dome is comprised of cast iron columns with sheet metal paneled bases and ionic capitals evenly spaced around the rotunda’s circumference. An ornamental wrought iron metal railing fills the spaces and creates a grille work between the columns. There are eight round arch head windows evenly spaced around the rotunda wall at the walkway running behind the inner dome that create light and reflectance off the copper sheet metal. Formed copper sheet metal segmental arches span from column to column and have pressed ornamentation at the spandrels. These arches and columns support a copper sheet metal cornice with dentil molding, and above the columns is decorative copper sheet metal encapsulating the structural ribs forming the interior dome. The bottom panel of the dome is painted with a garland motif, and above that are translucent panels that provide illumination to the rotunda below.”

Capitol inner dome before restorationKansas Statehouse inner dome before restoration.

Capitol inner dome before restorationRestoring the historic copper required a process of stripping, cleaning, tinting and testing. The cleaning alone took 6,000 man hours.

Capitol inner dome before restorationWith the stripping and cleaning complete, the copper had a like-new appearance. To provide a “10-year aged look”, tinted lacquer was applied. Over 75 gallons of tinted and clear lacquer were used to finish the inner dome restoration.

Capitol inner dome before restorationIn total, nearly 164 feet of scaffolding was used to reach the apex of the inner dome. Scaffolding was erected within the rotunda starting at the first level and ending in a dance floor platform (show in picture). Portable scaffolding was used to reach the inner dome from the dance floor platform.

Capitol inner dome after restorationKansas Statehouse inner dome after restoration. Photo by Aaron Dougherty Photography.

The Third Place: A First Priority


There are spaces that just naturally attract students. They’re comfortable, multifunctional, easy to access and a hallmark of the residential campus experience. It’s this type of accessible community space that inspired Starbucks’ living room approach, and that has become the center of many urban planning efforts.

More and more, it’s this quality of place that well-designed residence hall social spaces, student unions, libraries and outdoor courtyards hope to achieve — flexible, hybrid spaces that are vibrant, attractive, well-used anchors of student life, relationship building and community engagement.

Palladio Awards Recognize Kansas Statehouse

2015-04-27 Posted By: Patty Weaver

Treanor Preservation was named as a Palladio Award winner for our work on the restoration of the Kansas Statehouse. The Palladio Awards, a program co-produced by Traditional Building and Period Homes magazines, recognizes architectural firms for outstanding traditional design for commercial, institutional, public and residential projects. Treanor was presented with the Palladio Award for commercial, institutional and public work in the category of restoration and renovation.

Shoptalk: Knob-and-Tube

2015-04-22 Posted By: Patty Weaver

Shoptalk—deciphering architectural and historic preservation jargon one word at a time!

knob-and-tube wiring

Single-insulated copper conductors running within wall or ceiling cavities, passing through joist and stud drill-holes via protective porcelain insulating tubes, and supported along their length by nailed-down porcelain knob insulators; early standardized method of electrical wiring. (Source: Knob-and-tube wiring. Wikipedia. Accessed 2015.)

Knob-and-tube wiring (K&T), was commonly used in North America for interior wiring from the 1880s to the 1930s. While other methods of interior wiring were available during this time, K&T was often the preferred method as it was the most affordable. The method of wiring used two wires, supply (hot) and return (neutral) that had to be spaced at least three inches apart except where the wires connected to a box or fixture. At these connections the wires were covered with a loom, a woven flexible insulating sleeve, to provide additional protection to the insulated copper conductors. Porcelain knobs supported the wires between joists, suspending them in open air to allow heat to dissipate and preventing stress from accumulating on spliced connections.

Figure of K&T WiringSource: Electric Wiring and Lighting ...: Part I – Electric Wiring, Page 14, Charles Edwin Knox & George Carl Shaad, American School of Correspondence, 1913.

K&T was displaced as the method of choice from interior wiring systems because of the high cost of installation compared with the use of power cables, which combined both power conductors of a circuit in one run (and later included grounding conductors).

Knob and tube wiring has been found in many Treanor projects such as The Historic Windsor Hotel in Garden City, Kan., the Heaton Building in Norton, Kan.

K&T at Winsor HotelKnob-and-tube wiring was used at the Windsor Hotel. This picture shows wiring added sometime after historic construction penetrating a historic transom window above a door.

Multiple Wiring PhasesMultiple phases of electrical wire – from knob-and-tube to armored cable “BX” to insulated stranded wire - have been installed at the Heaton Building.

K&T wiring at Heaton BuildingExposed/vulnerable ceramic knobs and wires in the attic of the Heaton Building.

Three Immediate Openings with Treanor Preservation

2015-04-10 Posted By: Patty Weaver

The Treanor Architects Preservation Studio works with grand old architecture, but these are brand new positions! We are recruiting candidates for the following career opportunities:

Preservation Architect
Topeka, KS

  • Candidates must hold an accredited degree in architecture; college course work &/or professional experience with historic preservation is desired.
  • Ideal candidates will:
    • have 5-7 years of experience that includes project design, rehabilitation projects, heritage conservation research, planning and reporting, and materials conservation,
    • be licensed or actively seeking licensure,
    • be proficient with Revit; previous experience with Point Cloud and 3D modeling a plus,
    • and have a willingness and ability to travel in service of our clients’ needs.

2 Full-Time Designers
Topeka, KS / Kansas City, MO

  • Ideal candidates will:
    • hold an accredited degree in architecture; college course work &/or professional experience with historic preservation is desired,
    • 1-4 years of experience that includes project design, rehabilitation projects, heritage conservation research, planning and reporting, and materials conservation, actively seeking licensure,
    • proficient with Revit; previous experience with Point Cloud and 3D modeling a plus, and
    • a willingness and ability to travel in service of our clients’ needs.

If you would like to join this dynamic and growing team, e-mail Amy Bellerive, director of Human Resources, with your resume and contact information at for consideration.

Making the best of the past a part of the future!Making the best of the past a part of the future!

Shoptalk: Anthemion

2015-03-18 Posted By: Patty Weaver

Shoptalk—deciphering architectural and historic preservation jargon one word at a time!


Design consisting of a number of radiating petals developed by the ancient Greeks derived from the Egyptian and Asiatic form known as the honeysuckle or lotus palmette; used as a decorative finish in architecture; single-palmette for appears on decorative pedestals, roof or cornice elements; repeating pattern of alternating lotus and palmette typically appears on cornice molding. (Source: Anthemion. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2013.)

The anthemion is used in architectural ornamentation from ancient architecture to more recent classic revivals like in the Masonic Grand Lodge Building in Topeka, Kan., built in 1916. The Masonic Grand Lodge Building utilizes anthemion ornamentation on its copper roof cornice.

Carved Anthemion Ornament DrawingAnthemion (carved) ornament detail drawing by James Ward, 1897. (Source: Anthemion (Carved), from Apollo Epicurius. Look and Learn History Picture Library. 2010.)

Kansas Statehouse Oculus TopDiagram of classic architectural elements and features. (Source: Lecture Notes, Mediterranean Civilizations, ca. 2000 BC-AD 500. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 2009.)

Masonic Grand Lodge DrawingHistoric drawing of the south façade of the Masonic Grand Lodge Building by notable architect Edward L. Tilton c. 1916.

Masonic Grand Lodge BuildingSouth facade of the Masonic Grand Lodge Building, 2014.

Masonic Grand Lodge Roof CorniceAnthemion design on the Masonic Grand Lodge Building’s historic copper roof cornice, 2014.

Immediate Openings for Healthcare Architect & Designer

2015-03-06 Posted By: Jac Samp

Treanor Architects is adding two – yes two – new positions to our Healthcare studio based out of our Kansas City, Missouri office.  If you would like to join this dynamic and growing team, e-mail Amy Bellerive, director of Human Resources, with your resume and contact information at for consideration.   

                      1 full-time Project Architect

  • Ideal candidates will be registered architects with 7-10 years of experience
  • Experience in Healthcare programming and design required. 
  • A passion for working collaboratively with clients to solve unique and complex challenges
  • Experience in the development of proposals
  • Ability to mentor young design professionals
  • Proficient in Revit, Sketch Up, etc.
  • A willingness and ability to travel in service of our clients’ needs

                               1 full-time Designer

  • Candidates must hold an accredited degree in Architecture
  • 2-4 years of practical experience
  • Revit and document production experience required
  • Experience in healthcare design not required
  • A willingness and ability to travel in service of our clients’ needs



Like wearing scrubs? Building baseball caps out of cans for charity? Designing for healthcare? Say hello today!Like wearing scrubs? Building baseball caps out of cans for charity? Designing for healthcare? Say hello today!