Columns, which have added grandeur and grace to buildings since ancient times, continue to be a defining element in classical- and traditional-style architecture.
Although materials and designs have progressed through the ages, columns remain enduringly popular elements that never fail to captivate, a fact attested by a number of select companies that are carrying on the tradition.
Using designs from historical plates, the ICAA primer and various client architects, Chadsworth fabricates columns, pilasters, capitals, balusters, and other architectural elements in wood, PVC, PolyStone®, and FRP (synthetics).
Chadsworth Inc., columns.com
“We have been in business for over 35 years, yet we never have ceased our studies to deliver the most architecturally correct columns and millwork,” says CEO and founder Jeffrey Lynn Davis. “Our specialty is delivering what is designed, not necessarily what is ‘stock,’ and our expertise is in our years of experience and training in Classical architecture.”
The family-owned and -operated company, which is based in North Carolina, has delivered products to significant projects around the country.
It provided architectural wood Roman Doric columns with Attic bases to the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C.; the pair of PolyStone® columns that are behind the lectern at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House; and custom architectural wood columns, pilasters, and display pedestals to Manolo Blahnik’s flagship boutique in New York City.
One of its more popular products also is one of its newer ones—Premier Architectural PolyStone®. “It’s quickly becoming a favorite among architects,” Davis says. “This line features actual dimensions rather than nominal and is mirrored from the ICAA primer. It is our top-tier FRP column line for discerning clientele. New sizes are being added consistently.”
Chadsworth, he says, takes a hands-on approach to each job. “From size to material, we offer not only suggestions but also solutions to complicated projects and restorations,” Davis says. “We have a ‘team mentality,’ and it does make a difference when clients know they are appreciated and we care about the success of their entire project.”
Fagan Design & Fabrication
A custom manufacturer that focuses on residential applications, family-owned and -operated Fagan Design & Fabrication makes wooden columns for historic replication.
“Our clients send us anything from a full CAD drawing to a thumbnail sketch on a scrap of board,” says company owner Jay Fagan. “We often work from photos, but samples are best. The more detailed the information, the more accurate the turning will be. We easily speak the Classicists’ language and can sight-recognize formula and proportion because we have decades of daily practice. And our reference libraries are pretty well stocked.”
The columns are manufactured using e-templating and 5-axis carving on lathes that are self-made CNC hybrids.
The company has done projects around the country, including making columns for the circa-1868 Davies Mansion, which serves as the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and for St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Chicago.
Fagan is passionate about the part he and his company play in preservation. “The level of craftsmanship of the past is something to aspire to,” he says. “In a sense, it’s time travel in the best way. Once the architecture of the past is gone, it’s gone forever. You can’t vernacular Victorian your way back to a neighborhood’s actual history.”
He adds that “with our deep understanding of wood and wood species, we can help architects and designers decide the best material for the project.”
A manufacturer of cast stone and cut stone, Stone Legends specializes in crafting not only columns but also veneers, balustrades, and window and door surrounds.
The family-owned company, which has been in business for more than three decades and operates out of a factory on 12 acres in Dallas, “brings a wealth of knowledge to the table,” says general manager Richard Carey. “It’s not just how it looks; there is a structural aspect that requires hardware and a sense of the structure we are attaching to. Columns especially require provisions for expansion and contraction to prevent structural damage.”
The company, whose columns grace the exteriors of buildings around the country, provides a variety of services, including design consultation, project management, drafting, and pattern making.
Noting that Stone Legends adheres to the same production processes that were in play 2,000 years ago, Carey says that “our people, their skills are honed to a fine edge. Forging stone is an art form requiring multiple trades to execute. Every application requires a fresh set of eyes, every trade looks at their respective contribution; coordinating them into one team is done by making a good plan—the drawings are the backbone of the team.”
Stone Legends’ columns, he adds, literally stand the test of time: “I expect them to still be standing when my children’s children learn of their family history.”