A Gaze into Glaze: Wood Window Restoration & Preservation

Location: Virginia Military Institute

Heralded as “the West Point of the South”, the Virginia Military Institute located in Lexington, VA is not only a beacon of military excellence, but a source of architectural notoriety as well. Prominent ninetieth century American architect (and history’s most significant practitioner of the gothic style), Alexander Jackson Davis, was commissioned to design for the Institute shortly after its founding in 1839. VMI was the first American college to be designed entirely in the Gothic Revival style, which features towers and turrets reminiscent of medieval castles and cathedrals.

Unfortunately, Davis would not see his plan to completion due to the Civil War, and the resulting financial difficulties. However, his designs would later inspire noted architect Bertram Goodhue to complete construction in the early 20th century. In 1966, The Barracks was designated a National Historic Landmark and the VMI Post was named a National Historic District in 1974. 

With over 715 antique wood windows, the 178 year old buildings require quite a bit of maintenance and preservation. That is where Mark Clark and his team at Southwest Restoration come in. They have been in the business of historic preservation for over 35 years and are now in their second generation, with Mark’s daughter, Ariel, leading the charge. The Virginia Military Institute contracted them to conduct a survey of their historic windows in 2013, and they have been on the job ever since.

Since the building still operates as an educational institution, the window preservation is limited to 12 or 13 weeks each summer when the cadets are off post. The team at Southwest Restoration temporarily removes the window sashes and transports them to their shop. There the windows are stripped of paint and glazing putty and the glass is removed. They then use ABATRON’S LiquidWood® and WoodEpox® to repair and restore any damage to the sash in preparation for primer and fresh paint. After priming, the glass is reinstalled and Sarco® Type M Glazing Compound is used to seal and hold the glass in place.

After being painted, the windows can then be reinstalled with new or restored hardware and weather stripping. Southwest Restoration currently averages about 75 windows a year in their 12 week process. However, this year they will be installing 40 temporary sashes to allow for restoration to continue over the winter. This effort should increase their restoration rate to 120 windows per year, keeping them on pace to fully complete the restoration by 2020.

The team at Southwest initially struggled to find products that would cure quickly enough to allow them to get the job done in the short window allowed each summer. However, after converting to ABATRON’s wood restoration products and Sarco® Glazing Putty at the recommendation of another contractor, they have completed hundreds of historic preservation jobs in record time.

With almost a million dollars of revenue each year in window restoration alone, these products have become crucial to the family owned business’s success. Success stories like that of the Virginia Military Institute reaffirm not only the quality and ease-of-use of ABATRON’s products, but our commitment to preserving the architectural elements of the past.


To learn about additional projects where ABATRON’s products have been used, please click here.

For restoration needs in the Virginia area, contact Ariel Clark at (540)797-9035.

For more information on the Virginia Military Institute, visit their website www.vmi.edu.