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2 "Fulton Mansion Restoration Accomplishes Difficult Construction Hurdle" | Text/Photos Courtesy of Marsha Hendrix, Ph.D., Director

Concrete conveyors rigged up from the truck to the house.
"The Fulton Mansion Gallery floors are being rebuilt. The original floors with steel I-beams and arched shellcrete barrels between each I-beam have lost their structural integrity, and after months of research and testing, the construction team is making this essential repair to the structure.

The structural design of the Mansion’s original gallery floors was fairly common for commercial and municipal buildings built after the Civil War and into the early 1900s, but it was quite the exception for someone’s residence. Although the interior structural floors are of solid Longleaf pine 6” thick, the galleries or what we today call a “porch,” needed to be out of materials more resilient to our harsh coastal conditions. As a bridge builder for railroad companies, George Fulton knew about steel bridge engineering, and his experience led him to build the galleries with steel beams, arched shellcrete barrels topped with four inches of additional shellcrete and then paver tiles. His design, which used the most modern technology for its time, served his family and future owners for almost 140 years, but the structure has finally succumbed to Aransas Bay’s harsh environment.

Concrete slides down the chute and onto
the back porch.
JC Stoddard Construction’s superintendent for the project, Jerry Kissling, explains what has happened, “As the original steel beams rusted, they also expanded. An example of what has happened is much like leaving a glass bottle of soda in the freezer. As the soda freezes, it expands and breaks its bottle. This too had happened to the shellcrete archs and pavers. The gallery floors have actually grown. This virtually irreparable condition will only get worse until it totally fails at some point.”

After months of surveying and studying all available options, the Texas Historical Commission with recommendations by Pat Sparks Engineering determined that the galleries be dismantled and replaced. The new galleries will be constructed of reinforced concrete with stainless steel re-bar and wire mesh. All historic measurements of the I-beam arches are being reproduced. Some of the historic pavers, which were the finished floor of the galleries, were sent off and analyzed. Out of this analysis came a list of components used along with a formula for duplicating the original. The reproduction pavers will be made at the Fulton Mansion job site, as were the originals. The paver formula is not a secret; however there are some components being shipped in from Arizona to make sure all elements to the original mix are represented. Luckily the most needed component, Rockport beach sand, is readily available.

Concrete goes down the chute and out the
Another challenge for the project has been making sure the modern concrete bonds to the historic shellcrete. Shellcrete was used in early construction along the Gulf coast. Shell and sand were readily available and binders varied somewhat per town or settlement. Shellcrete is not concrete. Shellcrete is hard mud with sand, oyster shell and varied formulas of natural and man-made cements. Kissling describes the challenge, “The core samples taken from the gallery walls were sent off for a strength test. The samples broke at 50 PSI. The average sidewalk today is poured with a minimum of 2,500 PSI concrete. This substantial strength difference between the old shellcrete and the new concrete had the engineers concerned. Prior to pouring the new gallery slab, the shellcrete wall had to be consolidated with a product designed to strengthen the shellcrete. Two days after the consolidation, a repair mortar was poured on top of the wall to help bond the new concrete to the shellcrete.”

Concrete goes from the truck to a conveyor. This special conveyor truck came all
the way from from Hutto, Texas (near Round Rock).
There could be no altering the new concrete mix as per the specifications required by the engineers and Texas Historical Commission, and the mix could not be pumped from a truck due to the small amount of cement and water needed to ensure a bond to the shellcrete. Kissling was concerned that it might require his crew to carry buckets up ten stairs to the galleries. He found Hunter Concrete Pumping out of Hutto, TX. This company can deliver the concrete to the galleries by using telescoping conveyor belts. The new structural slab was poured on October 11, 2014."

See more pictures of the construction on Facebook

Marsha Hendrix, Ph.D.
Director, Fulton Mansion S.H.S.



Wow! Extremely complicated restoration.


Wow. Hurdles is an understatement! Thank you for all your hard work!

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