FACADE REPLACEMENT

SINGLE FAMILY PRIVATE RESIDENCE

UPPER EAST SIDE HISTORIC DISTRICT, NEW YORK, NY

PACA was commissioned to replace the “no-style” brick façade, which included removing the brick exterior, large jalousie aluminum windows and main entrance door and replacing it with a more Neo-Classical style, load-bearing, limestone façade with traditional large casement windows and doors. An already complex project was made more so by the necessity to maintain the interior arrangement and decoration of all rooms, all beautifully restored with ornate plaster cornices and delicate plaster strap-work on the walls and ceilings.

The street-facing wall had been constructed with a 1-1/2 foot gap between the inner and the existing outer wall. The new facade was required to very precisely fit the interior window opening already installed on the interior, a process which required an extensive existing conditions survey and field verification.

This building had been subjected to extensive exterior alterations. The original 1879 building (see black-&-white tax map photo), one of a pair of rowhouses, is described as Neo-Grec in the LPC designation report and was replaced in 1954 by Wechsler & Schimenti, losing all traditional ornamentation in favor of an industrial aesthetic.

Using the rich palette of the surrounding Upper East Side neighborhood, the new facade drew some inspiration from Classical architecture, but most importantly from Georgian London and Bath.

Because of the unusual level of the basement floor being approximately two feet below pavement level, the replication a typical grand entrance would not fit the awkward floor and existing floor to ceiling height of the redecorated interior. Using a prescribed Classical Greek typology and a London townhouse prototype, the final design owes much to Robert Adam.

A planning challenge for this project was obtaining the required permits and approvals from the various city agencies including the NYC Dept. of Transportation, the NYC Dept. of buildings, and  the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.  

The project started out with the modest removal of the facing material and ended up with the removal of the entire front wall. A new limestone façade was affixed to a reinforced concrete masonry unit wall as the substrate with a load-bearing facing of limestone anchored to the new wall.

The structural gymnastics required to remove the existing wall and insert new steel lintels was achieved by strategic and careful placement of intermediate supports per floor to permit adjustment, as the existing masonry was taken down and the new pair of load-bearing walls were constructed. This was time consuming and difficult as each piece of new limestone had to fit precisely.  The new facade also required new foundations that had to be installed and, in certain locations, underpinned. 

A requirement for the project was full-size shop drawings submitted by Belisle Ancestral Doors & Windows, and Argyle Cut Stone, the stonemasons carving each component. The Indiana limestone blocks and ornamental carving was carried out at the quarry and laid out for final 'dry' fitting before shipping to New York. All of the casement windows are western red cedar and the entrance door is mahogany, all made in Canada.   

©2019  PAGE AYRES COWLEY ARCHITECTURE, LLC

Private Residence, Manhattan NYC

Interior view of exterior wall during demo of outer wythes of bricks