Transition to Ghost

I’ve put up a lot of posts here about building ghosts, the visible marks left by now-demolished buildings on their neighbors. Today’s photos, sent to me by a friend of the blog, show a specific moment in transition. The overall view above, shows the general situation for all building ghosts: the 1920s or 30s building on the left was constructed adjacent to an older row house, which has since been demolished. There are a few interesting details, best seen in the close-up view:

First, the gray brick on the bottom, the ghost itself, is in the same plane as the regular wall above. The extant building has a steel skeleton frame, so the brick is a curtain wall. The co-planarity makes it very likely that the demolished house was the end building of a row, with an independent side wall entirely on its lot. If it had been in the middle of a row, with a party wall on this side, I’d expect the gray brick to be that party wall, standing proud of the wall above by at least four inches at the top of the gray area and more at the bottom. So the gray-area masonry is part of the newer building, built blind up against the side wall of the house.

Second, we have two chimney flues that got extensions when the extant building was constructed. When the small building was demolished those steel brackets were put in to support the bottom of the extensions. (Note that most of the weight of the extensions is supported by masonry cantilevers off the brick curtain wall. Those brackets are comically undersized if they’re meant to be supporting the whole thing.)

Third, the flues are at least partly within the curtain wall itself. The side of the extension is one brick (8 inches) wide, and that’s too small for a flue. The minimum size of a masonry flue wall is a single wythe (one half-brick) in thickness, or 4 inches, and no one built a chimney extension with a 4-inch wide flue. But never mind logic, we can see it: slightly down and to the right of the window at the far upper left of the close-up picture is an old flue opening. The smooth area of gray stucco to the left of the stepped steel brackets is not co-planar with the wall, but rather 4 inches (one wythe) in, so that the two upper brackets are 12 inches deep rather than 8 inches. It’s hard to see, but compare the triangle stiffener plate on the lowest bracket there with the white edge of the flashing of the next bracket up (the middle bracket of the three) and you can see the mismatch in size. Or you can look at the flue opening itself, which is twice the width of the brick covering at its right edge. But if the overall projection is 8 inches from the face of the wall, and the flue is 8 inches with a 4 inch coercing of brick, then the flue is within the body of the wall. This explains why the brackets were installed rather than simply demolishing the extensions: taking the extensions off means reconstructing part of the wall.

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