September 2011

A Building Ghost

by Don Friedman on September 26, 2011

We often find remnants of old buildings that had previously been on a site we are working – fragments of old foundations and reused old foundations being the most common – but sometimes you see ghosts of buildings that have been demolished on the site next door. This most commonly happens with old rowhouses where party walls either survive after demolition because they are part of a neighboring building or where a newer building was built up against a party wall and the construction in that area is different.

In this example (click to enlarge), a row house was demolished to build a new hotel, exposing the side wall of the steel-framed loft building next door. Since this is in midtown Manhattan, the row house probably was built in the middle third of the nineteenth century and the loft appears to date from the 1920s. The loft incorporated the row house party wall as part of its enclosure, so that wall could not be removed, and remains protruding part-way out of the loft’s side.

A few items of note… The loft is built out full to the lot line, while the new hotel has a front yard. The old rowhouse front facade was set back a few feet from the lot line, and this front yard probably contained an areaway entrance to a basement and a stoop to the parlor floor above. The front facade was not well-conncted to the side wall, but rather the brick was toothed in clumps of three or four courses at once. (Look just left of the flags.) The front chimney (above the flagless flagpole) was not extend up as required by the building code (both now and in the 1920s) so this chimney either belonged to the house demolished for the construction of the loft building or, more likely, was abandoned by the time theft was built. Finally, waterproofing the irregular outline of the old part wall is difficult, but stuccoing it is not a bad idea.

Talk, Down South

September 6, 2011

I’ll be speaking at the AIA-North Carolina conference this Thursday. The talk is on a topic of great interest to me and close relation to our work: do designers learn lessons from the past. The specific topic I’m going to discuss is the relation of current facade-inspection laws such as New York’s Local Law 11 […]

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