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A Great Hall: Zinc shingles add longevity and style to a historic building

Photos courtesy of Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc.


Lake Geneva, Wisconsin's Horticultural Hall was built in 1911 for the purpose of encouraging and promoting the art and practice of horticulture. It was used for meetings, social events, and flower and vegetable shows by the professional gardeners and foremen from the grand estates on Lake Geneva. It was built on donated land and financed by money raised by the sale of stocks to lakeshore residents. In 1954, it was reorganized as a non-profit organization with a 501 (c) (3) status.

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Horticultural Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Wisconsin State Register, and remains very much intact to the original construction. The architect was Robert Spencer, a well known Chicago architect also know for his work on the Lake Geneva Country Club and the Chicago Public Library on Michigan Avenue.


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Horticultural Hall is a magnificent Arts and Crafts structure built around a large grassy courtyard and flower garden, open to the sky and enclosed for privacy by arcades. The great hall has a high-beamed ceiling and a parquet floor. An office/meeting room and horticultural library remains, as well as a commercial kitchen.


Today the hall is still privately held in trust, managed by a dedicated volunteer board of directors, and is supported by donations from the community and surrounding lake residents, and the revenue received from renting the facility for weddings, social events and other community proceedings.


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The original roofs on the main gable of the great hall and the entry were cedar shake, which was overlaid in the early 1940's with a diamond-shaped asbestos cement transite shingle. By 2009, this 60-plus year old roof was badly soiled, mildewed, and had broken and missing shingles. It was unsightly, and definitely at the extreme of its life expectancy. The board explored replacing the roof with slate, faux slate, asphalt shingles, cedar shakes, and metal pan and shingle roofing systems.


Zinc was chosen for longevity, low maintenance and style, using Umicore Building Products USA's VM ZINC Adeka diamond pattern roof shingles, which are very similar to the existing diamond cement asphalt asbestos shingles in texture and scale. The new light-weight zinc roofing system allowed a layer of rigid insulation over the vaulted great hall space, improving thermal performance and cutting energy usage. The aesthetic result is stunning. The matte grey finish is rich and subdued and mimics the former pattern that so many are familiar with.


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Fund raising for this project accrued slowly over an 8-year period, and seemed to have no hope of becoming reality for some time to come. Finally, in early 2009 Jim Tuschall of Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., was contacted about the project. Tuschall offered a 50 percent discount in the material cost and fabrication for the benefit of the hall. This generous donation was the impetus the hall needed to sell the project to its constituency. Shortly after Tuschall's offer, several other large cash donations were received that allowed the project to proceed.


Jim Tuschall of Tuschall Engineering was supported in this endeavor by Norbert Schneider, president of Umicore Building Products, Raleigh, N.C. The original budget required re-use of the old painted galvanized gutters and downspouts. On a visit to Lake Geneva during the installation, Schneider and Tuschall decided that this building demanded matching zinc gutters and downspouts, and the two were successful in arranging for another amazing discount for these materials, through Guenther Huber-Delle, president of Ornamentals Manufacturing, of EuroGutter USA in Decatur, Ala.


Installation of the new roof was done by Sock Woodruff of Custom Gutter & Supply, Lake Forest, Ill.


Architectural plans and detailing, bidding, and site observation was donated by McCormack + Etten Architects LLP of Lake Geneva. M+E has become very partial to VM ZINC in recent years, using zinc roofing on residences in Lake Geneva.


Horticultural Hall has received tremendous positive feedback from the community with the new Adeka roofing. It is fresh, elegant, rich in color and texture, and protects this historic structure from the elements and fire hazard. The roof has an anticipated life expectancy of 100 years.


Knowing the hall was able to invest in such a high quality roof that will last for several generations to come says a great deal to its constituency about the future viability and sustainability of this landmark building. Fundraising will always be a difficult and necessary task for this volunteer board, but the burden is certainly lightened with a new zinc roof overhead.