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Outer Walls Brick Rehab Underway on Dupont East’s Historic Cairo Building

By Christi Harlan*

The Cairo Condominium Association’s board of directors has signed a contract with The Atlantic Company of America, Inc. — known for its work refurbishing the Washington Monument — to re-point the bricks on the historic Cairo building at 1615 Q Street, NW.

Re-pointing — a necessary step in the maintenance of any brick building — will require the removal and replacement of the mortar between the bricks on the outside of the 12-story building.

As The InTowner was going to press the work had just commenced with the installation of the swing stages now visible at the very top of the northwest corner of the building. First to be done will be the west side, following which work will proceed around the building, weather permitting, for the next 16 months.

The work will, at times, produce noise and significant amounts of dust that will require residents and businesses in neighboring buildings to keep windows closed in their buildings and in vehicles parked on Q Street and in the alley north of the Cairo.

With this in mind, the condominium’s board of directors decided to start the work on the building’s west side (facing and overlooking 17th Street) in the winter so that windblown dust and noise that will be unavoidable will not interfere with residents’ enjoyment of the sidewalk cafés by the time warm weather returns.

The Atlantic Company has advised residents of the Cairo that dust intrusion can be minimized (but not fully prevented) by taping the inside seams of windows around the frames and sills. The Cairo’s management is recommending that neighbors nearest the areas under work consider taking the same precaution.

All work will be performed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. No work will be allowed on Saturdays without the prior approval from Cairo management.

Any questions about work should be brought to the attention of Cairo management and not to the workers themselves. The safety of Cairo residents and neighbors is vitally important. The Atlantic Company will provide orange fencing, cones, signs, etc. to delineate all work areas and around all dumpsters, equipment and materials.

Because of the effects on the neighborhood, the Cairo’s board will provide as much timely information as possible about the schedule and status of the work. The board began that process on September 11th with a presentation to the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission about the project, and provided interviews and information about the project to neighborhood newspapers.

The Cairo, built in 1894 as a residential hotel, is known as the building that inspired the District government and Congress to set height limitations for buildings in the District of Columbia. The Cairo was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. [Ed. note: Readers will be interested in our recent “Scenes from the Past” feature about this building, InTowner, September 2007, page 12-13.]

The historic value of the Cairo was among the reasons the board selected The Atlantic Company to perform the re-pointing work. In addition to re-pointing the Washington Monument in 1999, that company has performed work on the National Archives, as well as having earlier this year completed a similar project on the outer walls of the Cavanaugh Court Cooperative apartments at 17th and Church Streets.

*Christi Harlan is a member of the Cairo Condominium Association board of directors and will be serving as the association’s community outreach contact during the major rehab project described.