Crews will restore historic building and construct new addition; hidden gems of botanical history discovered above false ceiling.
Tarlton Corp., a St. Louis-based general contracting and construction management firm, is serving as construction manager on the renovation and addition to the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the renowned Missouri Botanical Garden.
Tarlton’s scope of work on the 7,000-square-foot museum, which predates the Civil War, includes the restoration of the interior to closely align with the era of Henry Shaw, St. Louis businessman and founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The main level will be used for exhibits, while a portion of the renovated basement will be used as gallery space and other displays. Work includes the restoration of the building’s original tile floor, and stripping layers of paint from bookshelves. Energy-efficient upgrades include the installation of insulated glass in the building’s original windows and a new HVAC system. The team also will construct a new building that connects to the original museum, which will house public restrooms, fire stairs and an elevator, making the building accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The project is slated for completion in December.
The red brick building, which opened in 1859, is considered one of the most historically significant buildings in the Midwest and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior was modeled after buildings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England, and the exterior was designed by noted St. Louis architect George I. Barrett, who also designed Shaw’s country home (known as the Tower Grove House), as well as Shaw’s mausoleum located on garden grounds. The building has been closed to the public for more than three decades.
As the final budget was being developed, the Tarlton team removed part of a plaster drop ceiling in the building’s first-floor rear south room, a space that was slated to house the museum’s mechanical systems. It was there that crews uncovered hidden pieces of the garden’s history: the original barrel vaulted ceiling and painted portraits of three individuals who were greatly influential in the field of botany.
Hidden above the drop ceiling were portraits of George Engelmann, known as the “godfather of botanical science of the Missouri Botanical Garden,” a German-American physician, world-renowned botanist, longtime friend of Shaw and founding member of the St. Louis Academy of Science, as well as the National Academy of Sciences; Carl Linnaeus, an 18th century Swedish scientist known as the father of modern taxonomy, the scientific classification system for the naming of organisms; and a damaged third portrait of the pre-eminent American botanist of the 19th century, Asa Gray, of Harvard University. The design-construction team was then tasked with redesigning a portion of the project to preserve the portraits with the assistance of restoration experts, as well as conservators with the National Park Service. The museum was named for brothers Stephen and Peter Sachs in honor of the family’s support for the restoration. A wide range of generous donors also contributed to the restoration.
“We are excited to serve as construction manager on the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum,” said Tracy Hart, Tarlton president. “It’s an honor and especially gratifying to work on a project of great historical significance and scope for the award-winning Missouri Botanical Garden, a favorite destination for St. Louisans and visitors from around the world.”
The Tarlton team includes Andy Kovarik, project executive; Sondra Rotty, senior project manager; Joshua Fisk, project manager; Greg Sweeso, estimator; Brian Julius, project engineer; and Dustin Norton, project superintendent. Christner Inc. is the project architect.
The museum renovation is the second Tarlton project for the Missouri Botanical Garden. The firm’s Concrete Division recently replaced a bridge in the Climatron®, one of the garden’s most popular attractions.
In business since 1946, Tarlton Corp. is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that completes projects for wide-ranging clients in the commercial, life sciences, health care, institutional, power and industrial markets, also providing special expertise in concrete construction and restoration as well as hydro excavation and industrial vacuum services.
Founded in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 158 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.