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  • Conservancy President, Peg Breen talks about the awards

    Conservancy Hosts 22nd Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012 The New-York Historical Society Some 450 people packed The New-York Historical Society on April 25 to applaud an impressive list of Moses winners from across the City. They ranged from a Brooklyn church that painstakingly refinished its Renaissance Revival sanctuary, to Edgar Allen Poe’s Cottage in the Bronx, to the Central Park Police Precinct, where the facades of a historic stable complex have been cleaned and restored and a new canopy roof has added additional space for precinct functions.

    Acclaimed preservation architect John Belle received the Preservation Leadership Award while Councilmembers Brad Lander and Steve Levin received the Public Leadership Award. The coveted awards, nicknamed the “Preservation Oscars,” laud outstanding preservation work. They are named for Lucy Goldschmidt Moses, a dedicated New Yorker whose generosity benefited the City for more than 50 years. The Awards have recognized over 200 individuals, organizations and building owners for their extraordinary contributions to the City.

    “This is one of the most joyous occasions for us at the Conservancy because we get to celebrate the people and projects that maintain the City’s extraordinary architectural heritage,” said Peg Breen, president of the Conservancy. “The time and care that went into completing these projects demonstrate New Yorkers’ commitment to preserving the entire range of the City’s historic architecture.” John Belle, FAIA, a founding partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, LLP, received the Preservation Leadership Award for his work in helping New Yorkers see the great urban spaces all around them, waiting to be discovered, restored, and reused, including the South Street Seaport, Grand Central Terminal, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

    In a career that has spanned over 40 years, he has received three Presidential Design Awards, the nation’s highest design award for public architecture. He joined the Conservancy Board in 1985, served two years as President of the Board, and is now a member of the Conservancy’s Advisory Council. Council Members Lander and Levin received a shared Public Leadership Award for the courage they showed in upholding the City’s Landmarks law and facing down harsh opposition to the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, Brooklyn.

    The Banner Building is mentioned in the video with Peg Breen.

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  • Casting Call - Traditional Building Magazine

     
    PROJECT Bleecker+Bond Building, New York, NY
    ARCHITECT Scott Henson Architect, LLC, New York, NY; Scott Henson, principal

    By Eve M. Kahn

    Victorian cast-iron façades were the first curtain walls, maximizing natural light and column-free interior space. When poorly maintained, they can become unstable sieves. Scott Henson, the head of a five-person preservation architecture firm in New York City, Scott Henson Architect, LLC, spent part of the past four years overseeing the disassembly and reconstruction of a ten-story sieve.

    The cast-iron 1890s front of 648 Broadway, in Manhattan's trendy NoHo neighborhood, has been brought back from the brink of crumbling to watertight and structurally secure status. The longtime owners originally hired Henson just to inspect the façade after a chunk of cast iron fell, but the assignment grew into a $1.2 million overhaul. Tenants can now gaze across NoHo's higgledy-piggledy water towers through noise-blocking double-paned windows framed by metal rosettes, wreaths, dentils, balusters, and volutes. (Much of the intricate ornamentation is new, made by Robinson Iron in Alexander City, AL, and CCR Sheet Metal in Brooklyn, NY.)

    Henson was drawn to the commission partly because so many innovative Belle Epoque buildings survive nearby, including Louis Sullivan's leafy Bayard Building and McKim, Mead & White's Romanesque-arched Cable Building. "The historic and current development of the NoHo district is built upon progressive architectural experimentation," he says. The original name of 648 Broadway was the Banner Building, after its millionaire developer, Peter Banner. A wholesale clothing merchant, he also put up commercial and residential structures, including luxury apartment blocks on Central Park West.

    For the first phase of 648 Broadway, he hired Cleverdon & Putzel, prolific architects of everything from Harlem row houses to a crematory in nearby Queens. Tenants, mostly clothing manufacturers and sellers, filled Cleverdon & Putzel's eight floors soon after the Banner Building opened around 1892. Six years later, Banner brought in Robert T. Lyons (the architect of several Banner apartment buildings) to add a two-story penthouse. Lyons echoed Cleverdon & Putzel's arched windows and Classical vocabulary, and the top two floors serve as a lacy six-bay capital for the four-bay plainer base and shaft. Banner was prominent enough that his daughter Rosalie married a Bloomingdale department store heir (and that couple's son married a Rothschild baroness).

    But the developer apparently overextended himself. By 1906, 648 Broadway was embroiled in his bankruptcy proceedings. The current owner's family acquired it in the 1940s, and its tenant roster has evolved over the decades from handbag makers to a jazz club to designers, theater and film professionals and other creative types. The building is now loftily called Bleecker+Bond (after the adjacent side streets). Henson and the contracting team (Soho Restoration, Brooklyn, NY; subcontractor: MJE Contracting, Corona, NY) ended up removing unfortunate 20th-century accretions. Underneath a 1970s aluminum storefront, they found fluted pilasters, reliefs of lions' heads and an 1890s advertising plaque for the Cornell brothers' Manhattan iron foundry.

    Leaky window air conditioners had fostered decay in the wood sash and helped corrode the wrought-iron bolts that held together the cast iron. Lyons' sheet-metal upper floors were severely deteriorated, pocked with dents and punctures. The façade had to be literally taken apart. "Cast-iron construction is a complex assembly, a very heavy, unwieldy, brittle puzzle that demands meticulous care," says Henson. Soho Restoration dismantled the façade and patched the salvageable iron with epoxy from Belzona of Glen Cove, NY. Robinson Iron and CCR fabricated and installed new elements. The fasteners are now stainless steel, and the joints are soldered. J. Scott Howell, Robinson's general manager, is a veteran of such replication projects, and reports that New York's 19th-century foundries supplied an astonishing variety of compatible patterns that clients could mix and match. "Everybody wanted something a little special about their particular location," he says.

    Viles Contracting Corp. of Newark, NJ, used Cathedral Stone mortars to repair the eroded brownstone trim at the former Banner Building. JPadin of Newark installed Spanish cedar-framed, insulated-glass windows in double-hung and pivoting formats. New HVAC was woven throughout the ten floors, with mechanical equipment hoisted onto the roof, all while the offices remained occupied. Coal storage spaces on the ground floor, still full of container-loads of coal, were cleared out to adapt into a fire stair egress leading to a back alley. Henson and project subcontractor Julio Mejia recently toured a reporter through the building, starting at its foundations on granite blocks and brick ziggurats.

    In a basement cavity, a brick vault arches over the adjacent subway tunnel. (A train rattled ominously through, just in time for the tour.) A petaled leaded-glass transom illuminates the lobby's white marble walls. An ADA-compliant steel ramp, fitted snugly over a basement lateral beam, now leads to the ground floor's deli. Floral and ribbon motifs recur there in the pressed-metal ceiling, exposed column capitals and penny round tile floors. On the shaft for the venerable Otis freight elevator, Eastlake florals and stripes are incised on each floor's door latches. Iron asters and scrollwork trail down the back stair's railing. Construction debris from the 1890s still lurk in a strange windowless half-floor between the Cleverdon & Putzel base and Lyons' addition. Henson has developed a kind of sub-specialty in such dusty crannies and daring vintage architectural materials around New York City.

    In recent years he has secured the envelopes of everything from Flemish Revival stepped parapets to Colonial Revival limestone corner quoins, copper mansards, Beaux-Arts gilded domes, 1930s skylights, 1960s concrete balconies and 1980s curtain walls. Clients keep coming in with unique building conditions compromised by weather, time and gravity, or building components in some unexplained state of duress. "Those are the kinds of challenges I love," he says, "and that are important to me for my work as a preservation architect."  TB

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