Architecture

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Brownstone was the go-to material for the well-heeled in the post-Civil War era but was supplanted by limestone when William K. Vanderbilt chose the material to build his mansion on 52nd and Fifth Avenue in 1880. Robert A.M. Stern, who has used the material in his new project at 62nd and Central Park West, thinks limestone is still the finest material around. Says the architect:

In New York, limestone conveys buildings of the highest architectural ambitions. Whether it’s the great public buildings like the Metropolitan Museum, or the grand palatial houses from the early 20th century like the Frick mansion, or the great apartment houses that were built in the 1920’s, particularly along Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, quite a number of the best buildings are limestone-faced buildings.

Limestone: The Choice for the Rich [NY Times]

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A reader sent us a link to the renovation gallery of an old English manor house called Knedlington. It’s a fun pictorial browse if you’ve got a little time to kill (which we know you do) and there’s even some annotation to walk you through what appears to be a full-on rehab of this old brick and stone structure.
Renovation Gallery [Old Hall Knedlington]

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The former Sunset Park Court House is a Classical Revival style building located at 4201 Fourth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets in the southwestern section of Brooklyn. It is one of only two courthouse buildings known to have been designed by Mortimer D. Metcalfe, a New York architect who also worked on the design of Grand Central Terminal, served as NY State Deputy Architect under State Architect Franklin Ware, and independently designed several landmark buildings in Palm Beach. The Sunset Park Court House was built in 1931 to house the magistrates’ and municipal courts and today is one of the neighborhood’s few remaining civic buildings. It’s largely intact on the exterior and has had only a few minor alterations. Of particular note are its imposing Ionic-columned porticos on the 42nd and 43rd street facades and its grand quoins culminating in American eagle capitals, moldings, meticulously-articulated limestone details, and window treatment. The building is currently used as the Community Board 7 headquarters and also to house the NYPD’s main applicant processing division.
Sunset Park Courthouse [Landmarks Preservation] GMAP

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Since we’re going to be out of town this weekend and unable to photograph any themes or neighborhoods for next week, we thought we’d ask the readership to pitch in. We’ve always been drawn to the occurrence of shingles in a city dominated by stone and brick. Next week, we’d love to be able to exhibit examples of shingled structures in Brooklyn. So if you’ve got your digi with you this weekend, we’d appreciate any and all submissions along with a note about the location. We’ll post the results throughout the week. Thanks a mucho.

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And we quote…In the period prior to the 1830’s or so, most of the rowhouses being constructed in New York had either brick or wood facades. Alternatives such as marble existed, of course, but these were far too costly for most homeowners to consider, especially since the stone had to be cut by hand and transported long distances. With the growth of the new urban middle class came a desire for something more sophisticated in appearance than simple brick, and more durable than wood. Brownstone, a type of sandstone, was readily available from quarries located in New Jersey and Connecticut. A form of sedimentary rock which frequently contains fossilized footprints of prehistoric animals, it owed its unique dark brown color to high concentrations of iron, which turned color with exposure to water. Using barges, it could be shipped easily to New York, where it quickly became popular. In Brooklyn, brownstone houses could be found anywhere from Bedford Stuyvessant to Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens. Houses themselves were not constructed of brownstone, but rather a veneer less than a foot thick was placed on the front of each home, which was actually constructed of brick. The mark of a good brownstone mason was his ability to cut and assemble the blocks of a facade so carefully that it almost appeared to be a single mass of stone.
Tidbits [Nero Wolfe]

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In addition to selling the standard array of old building materials and fixtures, Virginia-based Salvagewrights also specializes in rescuing historic structures. We had the pleasure of accompanying owner Craig Jacobs to the site of a 5,000-square-foot clapboard house that he is in the process of dismantling and moving to the other side of the county. It was being moved to make way for an industrial park. Is anyone aware of instances of entire brownstones being saved and moved to another site in the New York?
Homepage [Salvagewrights.com]

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Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, the fact that we spent last week working from the remote reaches of rural Virginia was hopefully undetectable. Despite the slightly slower connection and the distraction of multiple children underfoot, we tried not to let pace of posts slow. We also found time for some local architectural appreciation. While there are plenty of grand old plantation houses in Rappahannock and Culpeper Counties, the most compelling structures to us are the simplest: The clean lines of an old barn or a one-room shack have a quiet elegance that wins us over every time.