Project Details

Project Name

Emlen Physick Estate

Project Location

Cape May, NJ

Completion Date

1996 (original install), 2021 (recoat)

Acrymax Systems


The Restoration of the Emlen Physick Estate

There are few historic architectural details as timeless and iconic as the classic tin roof. However, their preservation presents a unique set of challenges for property owners and managers. The Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, NJ, is no exception.

Built in 1879 by architect Frank Furness, this Victorian house museum is the last of its kind in the historic town. It boasts the classic “Stick Style,” with intricate exterior patterns and contrasting textures divided by rectangular grids of flat wooden boards. Today, the property is owned by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC), a non-profit, cultural organization created in 1970 to rescue this very property from demolition.


The Architectural Challenge

The carriage house, with its distinctive Mansard tin roof, posed a significant challenge for the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC), the custodians of the Emlen Physick Estate. Years of neglect and deferred maintenance had taken their toll on the roof, leaving it vulnerable to leaks, corrosion, and unsightly damage. Despite efforts to patch and repaint the roof, MAC’s board of directors recognized the need for durable and cost-effective weatherproof roofing systems to safeguard this historic structure.

Tom Carroll, MAC’s vice president and seasoned preservationist, understood the gravity of the situation. According to Carroll, the carriage house roof had been a problem from the beginning.

“By the time MAC had taken over the property, the carriage house roof was already in need of repair,” says Carroll, whom Travel and Leisure magazine once referred to as an “arch-preservationist. “We had a non-profit tenant in the building who was supposed to maintain the structure, but not too much was done by them.”

However, Carroll wasn’t about to give up. He had experience in the matter, as the nearby Mainstay Inn he owned also had a tin roof that had faced the same dilemma. Carroll proposed a solution that had been previously successful in historic building preservation without compromising their historic structure. 

“At the Mainstay, we had similar concerns regarding the need to protect our roof without destroying the character and charm of the structure,” he notes. “We selected a roof coating system called Acrymax, which I thought might also work for the Emlen Physick carriage house.”

The Solution

Acrymax’s liquid-applied elastomeric weatherproof roofing system, coupled with the polyester reinforcing fabric created a custom solution. Unlike conventional coatings, Acrymax’s coatings are engineered to maintain elasticity throughout the seasons, ensuring year-round protection against the corrosive salt air and temperature fluctuations common on the New Jersey shore.

Historical restoration has to be a long-term solution. Acrymax systems are known for their sustainability and long-lasting durability, making them an ideal choice for preserving historic landmarks in challenging environments. This roofing solution can protect the roof’s structure and charm for decades with minimal maintenance and periodic reapplications. 

The Results

In the summer of 1996, MAC enlisted a contractor to apply the Acrymax system to the carriage house roof. Within weeks, the roof was transformed with a new weatherproof coating in a classic shade of red, reminiscent of historic roofs in Cape May. Visitors to the estate marveled at the roof’s pristine appearance and updated paint job, unaware of Acrymax’s elastomeric coating system hidden beneath its surface.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September 1997, the Emlen Physick carriage house welcomed guests to a captivating exhibition of 18th and 19th-century teapots from England’s Norwich Castle, showcasing the seamless blend of protection and historic building preservation afforded by Acrymax coatings. Today, decades later, MAC – and Carroll – remain pleased with the enduring performance of the system.


In the quest to preserve historic landmarks like the Emlen Physick Estate, Acrymax has established itself as a trusted ally, offering custom solutions that marry cutting-edge technology with their respect for architectural heritage. Through our innovative elastomeric roof coating systems, Acrymax can ensure that historic roofs like the carriage house at the Emlen Physick Estate withstand the test of time, safeguarding their legacy for generations to come.

Acrymax recommends periodic reapplications of this system as part of general maintenance. The underlying properties of the original coating will remain intact, but regular reapplications will allow the building owner to extend the life of an Acrymax system indefinitely. 

The carriage house at the Physick Estate is a perfect example of this with one impressive caveat. Recoated in 2021 with an additional top coating of AF-130XT, the period between original installation and recoating was an incredible 25 years! The original recommendations were to have a reapplication every 10 years, but thanks to our astonishing quality and durability, the Acrymax system lasted an additional 15 years beyond its original life expectancy – remaining watertight for the entire duration. 

Other buildings on the Physick Estate campus, including the Cape May tennis club, other outbuildings, and even the primary mansion, have also been protected with Acrymax coatings in the past 25 years.

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