Water damage required reconstructing Oakridge Cemetery receiving vault, and the project participants had to deal with some unique details.

Western Specialty Contractors, Springfield, IL Branch (formerly named Western Waterproofing Company) partnered with project engineer Coombe-Bloxdorf, a Division of Fehr-Graham & Associates, to restore the receiving vault north of President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The vault held the president’s body after the assassination until December 21, 1865. The vault also held the body of Lincoln’s son, Willie, who died at 11 while the president was still in office. The vault is in a low spot in the cemetery and over the years water had caused major deterioration.

Here is a pictorial view of reconstructing Oakridge Cemetery receiving vault. (Photos by Western Specialty Contractors)

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault

The initial phase of the project involved channeling water away from the vault with the installation of drains. Once that task was completed, the general contractor began excavating the area around the vault in preparation for Western’s scope of work which included waterproofing, repairs to the stone facade, and restoration of the marble.

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault interior surfaces

The interior of the vault before work began. Western crews cleaned the tile floor and marble walls and ceiling inside the vault chamber using Prosoco 942 cleaner with a low pressure rinse.

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault finished interior

The completed interior of the vault. Additionally, crews re-attached two marble doors on the loculi, or shelves set into the wall of the vault where a coffin or body is stored.

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault involved extensive subsurface repairs

With the subsurfaces exposed, Western crews found extensive deterioration to the vault. The exterior walls had deteriorating bricks, voids in the masonry wall, and stone had been used as infill. They couldn’t simply apply waterproofing directly to the surface, and had to come up with a unique way to repair the walls and prep them for waterproofing.

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault completed subterranean outside wall

Completed view. “We formulated a system using a low cement ratio mortar and brick infill in areas where the brick had deteriorated away from the wall. After infilling the voids in the walls, we applied a layer of the low cement ratio mortar to the entire wall surface to create a smooth surface with no protrusions that could penetrate through the bentonite sheet waterproofing.” – Springfield Project Manager Josh Woolard

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault outside serpentine wall, before

The original stone material used on the serpentine retaining walls was no longer available, and Western crews had to find a suitable, alternate that would closely match the existing stones. Besides finding the correct length and depth of stones they had to compensate for voids resulting from the curves. “By first creating a template on Styrofoam of the gaps created by the removal of the stones, we were able to use computer software to find the radius of the curves within the wall.” – Josh Woolard

reconstructing oakridge cemetery receiving vault, serpentine wall, left, after

Completed view. Western also used other special methods to re-create the unique beaded joint in the original masonry. “…We used special tools and procedures which allowed the mortar to hold its shape while it was formed. This process provided a less workable material and was more time consuming for even small amounts of tuck pointing, but the end result is a structurally-sound, historical replication of how the vault was originally constructed,” said Woolard.