Duniway Roof Restoration Connects Past and the Present12/11/2023
During an assembly held on the day before Halloween, Duniway Elementary School Principal Philip Rafferty took the opportunity to remind everyone that the core value for the month of October was “connected.”
Then he treated the crowd to a reading of “Please Please the Bees,” by Gerald Kelley. The book tells the story of a bear named Benedict who takes for granted his daily delivery of honey until the bees that supply him fly off the job. Over the course of the story, Benedict learns just how much effort goes into producing a jar of honey. He begins to truly appreciate the bees and to work with them to make the honey he loves so much.
Principal Rafferty finished reading and summed up the story’s message this way: “Everything and everyone is connected somehow. Even if we don’t always perceive it, our actions impact others, and we need to be aware of that and do what we can to make this world a better place.”
A few minutes later, he was standing on the school’s roof, surveying the nearly completed restoration work that began in June. Duniway was built in 1927 in the collegiate gothic style and is a registered historic landmark. An official historic designation has the potential to complicate and lengthen restoration projects, but in Duniway’s case, it turned the simple act of fixing a leaky roof into a labor of love.
Work on phase one of the project began in 2021 with repair of the newer portions of the school’s roof. That was a relatively simple replacement job. Phase two, however, required obtaining historic preservation permits from the City of Portland. Once the paperwork was complete, craftsmen began replacing the roof’s hand-crafted clay tiles and its distinctive concrete balustrades. It also involved intricate copper work and the opening up of two historic skylights in the school’s main hallway.
“Our building is a part of Portland history,” Rafferty said. “It’s also really beautiful. Both of those are worth preserving.”
Mathew Braun is the project’s lead architect, agreed. “You don’t see many buildings like this one anymore. You couldn’t even build it today.”
But, with the help of a skilled team of experts, it turns out you can rebuild it. Several Portland-based companies lent their expertise to the project, consulting on everything from the colors of the roof’s multi-hued, overlapping clay tiles to how best to join the three decorative pieces that made up the concrete balustrades.
On the day of the assembly when students learned about Benedict the Bear and the value of empathy, teamwork, and connection, the clay tiles mirrored the vibrant fall foliage surrounding Duniway on all sides.
“There’s something about coming to a school this beautiful every day,” Rafferty said. “We love it. We take pride in it. It really lifts the spirits.”