2018 CHSA Biennial Meeting May 24-26, 2018 

University of Maryland

Health, Safety & Welfare AIA/CES learning units awarded through AIA / Potomac Valley 

10 multi-speaker sessions featuring state-of-the-art research in the Americas 

Construction Education and Theory (2 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Materials and Methods: 20thC (2 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Management of Institutional Construction (2 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Vernacular Construction Techniques in America (2 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Prefabrication in mid-20thC America (2 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Houses and Housing in the United States (1.5 AIA CES LU/HSW) 

Fabrication and Use of Materials (1.5 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Materials and Methods in the US: 19thC (1.5 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Bridge and Vault Construction (1.5 AIA CES LU/HSW)

Landscape Environments and Infrastructure (1.5 AIA CES LU/HSW) 

(not eligible for AIA Learning Units:  Keynotes, Tours, AGC 100 Year Centennial program)

The 6th Biennial meeting of the Construction History Society of America featured research and scholarship from a diverse range of academics and practitioners, focusing generally on the history of building design, fabrication, and construction throughout the Americas over the last five hundred years.  Presenters included scholars, engineers, architects, preservationists, and contractors, who presented on topics ranging from historic building materials to postwar engineering and building science.

The meeting was hosted by the Construction History Society of America and the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation at the University of Maryland from May 24-26, 2018 and follows successful biennial meetings of the CHSA held in Austin, TX (2016), Minneapolis MN (2014), Cambridge MA (2012), Philadelphia PA (2010), and Atlanta GA (2008) and the 10th Anniversary Members Meeting in Seattle, WA (2017).


Tom Leslie (chair) (Iowa State University)

Ahmed Ali (Texas A&M)

Robert Dermody (Roger Williams University)

Christopher Domin (University of Arizona)

Clifton Fordham (Temple University)

Matthew Hall (Auburn University)

Liane Hancock (Louisiana Tech)

Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla (University of Texas)

Scott Murray (University of Illinois)

Joseph Siry (Wesleyan)

Tyler Sprague (University of Washington)

Marci Uihlein (University of Illinois)



All events held at the Architecture Building – 3835 Campus Drive, College Park MD

(at the intersection of Campus Drive and Mowatt Lane)


Thursday, May 24

10:30                     Lobby 204                    Registration Open

11:30 – 12:30       Lobby 204                    Welcome Coffee

12:30 – 1:00         ARC 204                       Welcome / Introduction

1:00 –2:00           ARC 204                       Keynote #1:

Carl Lounsbury;   Adjunct Associate Professor, William and Mary College

2:00 – 4:00          ARC 1101                      Track 1:  Construction Education and Theory

2:00 – 4:00          ARC 1103                      Track 2:  Fabrication and Use of Materials

4:00 – 4:30          Lobby 204                    Coffee Break with light snacks

4:30 – 6:30          ARC 204                       100 Years:  Building on Experience

One hundred years ago, in 1918, ninety-six general contracting companies from around the country met at the old LaSalle Hotel in Chicago to form the Associated General Contractors Association of America. The Construction History Society of America, with support from the AGC of America, celebrates this occasion with a special session that is free and open to the public. Introduction by AGC, Keynote by Kenneth D. Durr, author of 100 Years: Building on Experience and Vice President, History Services at History Associates; with panelists Scott Lewis, Projects Editor at Engineering News-Record, William E. Reifsteck II, Director of Preconstruction Services at ProWest, and Sara E. Wermiel, Construction History Scholar and author of The Rise of General Contracting in 19th Century America.

Introduction:  Brian Turmail, Vice President of Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, AGC

Keynote #2:  Kenneth D. Durr, Vice President, History Services, History Associates


Sara E. Wermiel, Independent Scholar, Boston University

Scott Lewis, Associate Editor, Engineering News Record

William E. Reifsteck II, Director of Preconstruction Services, Prowest Constructors

6:30 – 7:30          ARC 1111                      RECEPTION / Sponsored by AGC         


Friday, May 25

8:00 – 10:00         ARC 1101                      Track 3:  Materials and Methods in the United States 19th C

8:00 – 10:00         ARC 1103                      Track 4:  Bridge and Vault Construction

8:00 – 10:00         ARC 1105                      Track 5:  Construction of American Landscape Environments and Infrastructure

10:00 – 10:30       Lobby 204                   Coffee Break

10:30 – 12:30       ARC 1101                      Track 6:  Materials and Methods in the United States:  20thC 

10:30 – 12:30       ARC 1103                      Track 7:  Management of Institutional Construction

10:30 – 12:30       ARC 1105                      Track 8:  Vernacular Construction Techniques in America

1:30 – 7:00                                                   TOURS



Washington National Cathedral Behind-the-Scenes

 See our Nation’s Cathedral and a view of Washington, DC like you’ve never seen before on a two hour behind the scenes private tour of the Washington National Cathedral. The tour will be led by James W. Shepherd, AIA, LEED, Director of Preservation and Facilities at the Cathedral and Joe Alonso, the Head Stone Mason. They will give you special access to the highest heights of the towers to the balcony of the Rose window and everything in between. The tour will include information about the history of the Cathedral, stories of the construction, the 2011 earthquake damage and the repairs that are underway. 

James W. Shepherd AIA, LEED, Director of Preservation and Facilities, Washington National Cathedral

Joe Alonso, Head Stone Mason, Washington National Cathedral 

Historic Lighting Design at Union Station

 In 1907, D.H. Burnham & Co.’s Beaux-Arts Washington Union Station opened to immense fanfare and praise in response to nearly every aspect of the building’s design, including the innovative lighting design. Throughout the public spaces of the station, lead architect Peirce Anderson maximized the amount of natural light in the station during the day through the strategic use of skylights and replicated the effects of natural light at night using concealed and ornamental lighting elements. This tour will give attendees an inside look at D.H. Burnham & Co.’s creative and architecturally impressive solutions to the challenges of lighting the monumental spaces at Washington Union Station. The historic lighting design will be discussed within the context of the original design and construction of Union Station and attendees will be taken through the Main Hall (including at the mezzanine level behind the Legionnaires), the West Hall, the East Hall, the Presidential Suite, and the Retail Concourse.


Friday May 25th from 10:30a – 12:30p / ARC 1101

Kevin Wohlgemuth, Architectural Conservator, Building Conservation Associates, Inc.

Michele Boyd, Director of Preservation Services, Building Conservation Associates, Inc.

Sarah Mayersohn, Document/Archive Manager, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC)

Rich History of General Montgomery C. Meigs Work at Arlington National Cemetery

 This tour to Arlington National Cemetery highlights the rich history of General Montgomery C. Meigs’ work. Arlington National Cemetery Tours, Inc. provides the transportation with site access and expertise well beyond the standard tour. Stopping at the Ord & Weitzel gate to see the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and how the original sandstone columns and entablature from the portico of the 1818-1820 War Department Building were reused, deconstructed, and are being conserved in preparation for their reassembly to serve once again as gateways. Near Arlington House, in what was once part of its famous rose garden, stands a monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who died in the Civil War. The monument, dedicated in September 1866, was the first memorial at Arlington to be dedicated to unidentified soldiers who had died in battle. Other sites visited are the 1873 Tanner Amphitheater, USS Maine Memorial, gravesite of General Meigs and his son, Lieutenant John R. Meigs, President John F. Kennedy gravesite, and the Arlington House (The Robert E. Lee Memorial). 

Christopher H. Marston, HAER Architect, Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service 

Rebecca L. Stevens, AIA, Cultural Resources Manager, Arlington National Cemetery


Saturday, May 26

7:00 – 8:00 am CHSA Management Committee Meeting (location TBA)

8:00 – 9:00          ARC 204                       CHSA Members Meeting  (all are invited!)

9:00 – 10:00         ARC 204                       Keynote #3:

Thomas E. Boothby; Professor, Architectural Engineering, Pennsylvania State University

10:00 – 10:30       Lobby 204                   Coffee Break

10:30 – 12:30       ARC 1101                      Track 9:  Prefabrication in Mid-Twentieth Century America

10:30 – 12:30       ARC 1103                      Track 10:  Houses and Housing in the United States

12:30 – 1:00         ARC 1105                      Closing Comment

Abstract presentations: 20 minutes in length with 10 minutes Q&A following


Abstracts for Presentation

Abstract and Presentation tutorials found here.

Abstracts will be compiled in a hard-copy catalogue to be distributed at the meeting. Abstracts for presentation imply that the author(s) intent is to present the subject within a 20-minute slideshow.

CHSA encourages authors to also submit full papers to Construction History according to their publication schedules. The submission of an abstract for the CHSA Meeting does not exempt papers from the Journal’s review process



Carl Lounsbury

Adjunct Associate Professor of History

College of William and Mary

Innovation and Tradition:  The Transformation of the Building Process in the Early Chesapeake

Traditional English construction technology changed dramatically in the early Chesapeake due to the confluence of social, economic, environmental, and logistical circumstances that forced settlers to modify familiar building practices. By the 1640s English- born and trained craftsmen in the new world had adapted construction methods and plan types that best suited the needs of an emerging plantation culture that was spread thinly along the banks of the James River.  Colonists were acutely aware that these new forms had diverged so far from common English practices that they referred to these buildings as “Virginia houses.” This short-hand reference described clapboarded buildings fabricated with a simplified structural system that reduced much of the labor-intensive and complicated joinery associated with well-framed “English houses” with their stout posts, beams, and braces fastened with mortise and tenon joints.

The story of colonial building exemplifies the broader theme of early European settlement of America, which traces the adaptation of inherited forms to a new world society. This paper focuses on how building practices responded to the emergence of a tobacco-growing, slave-labor society in the Chesapeake in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although native born craftsmen used English tools to shape their buildings and imported hardware, glass, stone, and other items from England, their buildings reflected the needs of a plantation culture that encouraged rudimentary building practices for many decades before the social, economic, and cultural maturation of the colonies of Virginia and Maryland in the early eighteenth century called for more permanent building.

Even then, new English ideas about design and style were shaped by that earlier legacy. The authority of metropolitan ideas devised from architectural books and the drawing board, did not overwhelm nor trump practical experience garnered over many decades from the building site. Craftsmen and their clients controlled that reception to create an architecture that reflected the aspirations of this provincial society. From the development of a local standards for brick production and ornamentation to the refinement of framing methods, Chesapeake builders developed a distinctive building technology that flourished through the middle of the nineteenth century.

Carl Lounsbury retired as the Senior Architectural Historian in the Architectural and Archaeological Research Department at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in December 2016. Over a 35-year career at Colonial Williamsburg, he researched English and colonial American public buildings, churches, meetinghouses, and theatres; and the terminology, practice, and technology of preindustrial building. He was involved in the restoration of many buildings in Williamsburg’s Historic Area.

Lounsbury is an Adjunct Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary, where he teaches courses in architectural history and a summer field school. He is also engaged in a three-year study of the architecture, objects, and garden at Eyre Hall, an eighteenth-century plantation on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that has remained in the same family for ten generations. In addition, Lounsbury remains an active consultant in architectural research and preservation. He has been involved in the study of slavery at the University of Mississippi and is investigating slave quarters in north Mississippi including William Faulkner’s house Rowan Oak in Oxford. He is the co-editor of Buildings and Landscapes, the journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

Lounsbury earned his undergraduate degree in history and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his MA and PhD from George Washington University. In addition to William and Mary, he has taught at the University of Mary Washington, VCU, and the University of Virginia.

His extensive publications include Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Buildings (1990); An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape (1994);and The Courthouses of Early Virginia(2005), all three of which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Other books include From Statehouse to Courthouse: An Architectural History of South Carolina’s Colonial Capitol and the Charleston County Courthouse(2001); An Architectural History of Bruton Parish Church (2011), and Essays in Early American Architectural History: A View from the Chesapeake(2011). Most recently, he is the co-author and a contributor to The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg, (2013). His revision of Before and After, the popular history of the restoration of Williamsburg will be published in 2018. He is at work on a history of early American ecclesiastical architecture.



Thomas E. Boothby

Professor of Architectural Engineering

The Pennsylvania State University

‘Ars sine scientia nihil est’ and other Delusions of the Second Millennium

The contemporary understanding of engineering in general, and structural engineering in particular, embraces the application of a rational, scientific world-view and scientific reasoning to the determination of appropriate sizes, materials, and configurations for structures. This outlook is a relatively recent development.  The architects and engineers who worked through the nineteenth century primarily applied the rules from their craft tradition to the construction of buildings.  The success of these methods is apparent in examining any building or built work from this time period.  The understanding applied through their craft tradition to these built works will be called empirical design.  We will be an investigate the specific methods used by empirical designers  in specific time periods including ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, the nineteenth century, and the present day. We will further recognize a very gradual shift from empirical design to scientific design from the middle ages through the present day.

Following this discussion, we will also investigate the epistemological basis of empirical design, which has its roots in empiricism, as opposed to rational or ‘scientific’ design, which is justified by the doctrine of rationalism.  The engineering success of these two foundational ideas in philosophy will be compared, and their application to contemporary engineering will be noted. Finally, we will establish empirical design as a valid method for engineering in any age.


Thomas E. Boothby is Professor of Architectural Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, a post he has occupied for the past 26 years.  His research interests are focused on history of construction.  He has examined masonry bridges in the US, iron bridges in the US, and medieval and Early Christian churches in Europe. His current interests include the understanding of empirical design in ancient through modern engineering.  Dr. Boothby has authored two books, Engineering Iron and Stone(2015),  a summary of the engineering design methods used in the late nineteenth century, and Empirical Design for Architects, Engineers, and Builders(to appear, June 2018), a textbook of empirical design.  




Prefabrication in Mid-Twentieth Century America

Materials and Methods in the United States: 19th Century

Materials and Methods in the United States:  20th Century

Fabrication and Use of Materials

Management of Institutional Construction

Vernacular Construction Techniques in the Americas

Bridge and Vault Construction

Construction Education and Theory

Construction of American Landscape Environments and Infrastructure

Houses and Housing in the United States


Important Dates:

  • November 16, 2017 – Abstract Deadline  (CLOSED)
  • January 1, 2018 – Online Registration Open
  • January 15, 2018 – Author Notification
  • May 24-26, 2018 – Biennial Meeting


Registration Fees: (Early Registration ends April 1, 2018)

Standard CHSA member – $155 (early), $185 (late)

Non-CHSA member – $210 (early), $240 (late)

Non-CHSA – includes $20 discounted one-year individual membership, valued at $75

Student – $35 (early, late)