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Hudson County Courthouse Lighting Replication Begins

The Hudson County Courthouse or Justice William J. Brennan Courthouse is a six story building located in Jersey City, New Jersey. This structure was designed by Hugh Roberts in the Beaux-Arts architectural style and built with granite between 1906 and 1910 on property obtained from fourteen separate property owners between 1905 and 1914. Construction of the building was done by the Wells Brothers and construction of the interiors and finishes were by John Gill & Son. The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders renamed the courthouse in 1984 in honor of Associate Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, who had served in the building as Hudson County Assignment Judge from 1947 through 1951.

A planned restoration of the building was proposed in 1961 by Theodore Conrad proposing a conversion of the building into the new city hall for Jersey City. Conrad led a citizens group that lobbied for the preservation of the building, and got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restoration project resulted in the courthouse being reopened in 1985 for the use of the civil courts and other county offices.

Grand Light is fabricating custom replications of a chandelier, wall sconce, and torchiere that are original to the building. The replication of these fixtures were to include the use of existing molds for the different components of each fixture. However upon inspection, only a small amount of these mold were usable. In order to accurately replicate the intricate metalwork and detailing of each fixture, custom replicated components will be cast using the lost wax method of replication.

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The first fixture to be replicated using the lost wax method was a historic courtroom chandelier. With the majority of the original molds unusable due to damage or cracks throughout the filigree and loss of detail present on the original components, existing components were used to create custom wax molds. These wax molds replicate the intricate detailing, shape, and size of each component.

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Once all the molds are completed, they are then passed to the wax area where a wax pattern is pulled from the production mold. Each wax copy is then chased by using a heated metal tool to rub out the marks that show the parting line where the pieces of the mold came together. The wax is dressed to hide any imperfections in the patterns.

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A comparison between the original components and wax patterns. Notice that all detailing, size, and shape have been perfectly replicated from the original components to the wax patterns.

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All wax patterns are gated and vented for a couple days prior to the start of the shell process. These patterns will then be encompassed in a layer of wax, known as spruing, to create a ceramic shell around the mold. Once the ceramic shell has been allowed enough time to harden, the shell is flashed, which involves heating the wax mold until the inside melts and seeps out leaving the ceramic shell hollow. Melted bronze will then be poured into each shell to create a casting for each replicated component.

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Work has begun on the Type B wall sconce replication process, beginning with the original sconce components used to create custom wax molds. Once all the molds are completed, they are then passed to the wax area where a wax pattern is pulled from the production mold, chased and then spru’d for the shell process. There will be four sets of wax patterns for the sconces.

Grand Light specializes in the restoration of historical luminaires of every scale, material, finish, and design. From professional diagrams and plans for your project to rewiring fixtures to UL standards, our specialists have proven their reputation as exceptional lighting restorers. 

For more information regarding this project, you may review the project homepage at Hudson County Courthouse.

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