Originally completed in 1892, the “Banner Building” located in New York City’s NoHo Historic District was commissioned by local merchant and real estate operator Peter Banner. Featuring ornate cornices and cast-iron columns, its 8-story Renaissance Revival facade combined the use of newly popular cast iron with the classical ornamentation typical of the district. By 2007, after over a century of wear and tear, the historic street facade and storefront had fallen into a state of critical disrepair. Acknowledging the building’s historic significance, the building’s owners of over 61 years retained our firm to direct what became a painstaking 3-year restoration to preserve the 19th century elegance of the Cleverdon & Putzel design while addressing 21st century concerns of energy conservation, accessibility and code compliance.
We implemented a master plan that began with intricately detailed facade inspections, mechanical probes, material analysis, historical research, and documentation. These investigations confirmed the urgency of the facade’s condition. The original cast-iron components manufactured by the J.B. & J.M. Cornell foundry were severely corroded, evidenced not only in the cast iron, but also in its structural supports and bracing. In many areas, the decorative pressed sheet metal used in a 1898 rooftop addition was deteriorated beyond salvage or missing entirely. The sandstone pilasters and capitals framing the cast-iron bands of the street facade were degraded and the original single pane wood frame windows had decayed beyond repair and warranted replacement in full.
The project team agreed that every effort should be made to adhere to the original materials and traditional means of construction. In areas where the original details were missing or could not be restored, new components had to be fabricated. The missing decorative cast-iron elements were recast by Robinson Iron in Alexander City, Alabama using details extracted from surrounding features. In consultation with a structural engineer, new bracing was designed for the reattachment of both the restored and the newly cast elements. The pressed sheet metal egg and dart frieze, scroll moldings, rosettes and decorative medallion reliefs utilized on the 1898 addition were carefully documented section by section and keyed. Replacements for missing or damaged portions were fabricated locally using custom molds, then intricately soldered into place with newly designed structural connections.
The type, mechanics and details of the original wood windows were carefully surveyed for the fabrication of new thermally insulated wood windows. A total of 54 units were replicated to match historic details including both weight and pulley double hung windows and single pivoting sashes with transoms. To enhance the building envelope’s performance, the new windows were fabricated with energy efficient insulated glass panels.
Removal of the 1970’s aluminum and glass storefront revealed the original cast-iron columns that would drive the new design. With relatively little documentation of the original storefront, we referenced the details of the original fenestration above as well as the original entry way to inform a new design that was both historically and contextually appropriate, providing a stable continuance along the street wall.
To ensure the preservation of not only the aesthetics of the Cleverdon & Putzel design, but also the buildings continued function, the architect incorporated energy efficiency as well as code compliance strategies throughout. The vestibule was widened to permit ADA access to the elevator bank while preserving the leaded glass entry door transom, penny tile and pressed metal ceiling. Leaking window AC units were replaced with an energy efficient split-unit system, with the condensing units concealed from view by placing them on the roof. The “labor law” staircase, installed in 1916 in what had been a coal chute, was severely corroded and had to be reconstructed part by part with new structural steel supports and platforms, all while keeping the stair open to residents. New insulated piping was run throughout the building and new ADA compliant plumbing fixtures were installed.
The restoration of the Banner Building contributes to the current revitalization of the NoHo Historic District, reinforcing its prominence as a neighborhood known for progressive architectural styles and design. The building’s present condition exhibits authenticity in the measures taken to preserve the original details and design intent, but also innovation in addressing 21st century concerns of energy efficiency and sustainability in a cohesive strategy.
For their work as the preservation architect, Henson received a number of accolades including an AIANY Design Award, the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from The New York Landmarks Conservancy, and a Preservation Award from Traditional Building Magazine among others.
October 16, 2019