Off the Grid is highlighting the winners of GVSHP’s 2015 Village
Awards, in the lead up to our June 17th Annual Meeting & Award Ceremony. Previous entries include Barbara Shaum, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, David Rothenberg, and The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation. Today we will look at the amazing renovation job at 201 East 12th Street.
GVSHP is thrilled to recognize the owners of the property, the Manocherian brothers, as well as the architects, Thomas Fenniman, Christopher Rome, and Karl Vinge of Thomas A. Fenniman, Architect. Please join us at the New School, 66 West 12th Street, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:00 P.M. to honor the Award recipients. The ceremony is free but reservations are required. To register, please call (212) 475-9585 ext. 35 or email.
The removal of cornices has been a detriment to our city’s rich collection of historic architecture for decades. The scars of missing cornices still mar otherwise majestically detailed and proportioned facades. That, and the fact that this is not a landmarked building, so these improvements were not required, is why it was such a wonderful surprising gift to our neighborhood last summer when the owner of 201 East 12th Street and architect Thomas Fenniman restored the cornices as well as other ornamentation on these two turn-of-the century buildings. 201 East 12th Street is an amalgamation of two loft buildings – an 1890’s mercantile building (the Townhouse Building) on East 12th Street and the later ornate 1930’s neoclassical building on the corner at Third Avenue (Corner Building). Historically they housed the Trow City Directory Company, and later the Verrier Eddy Engine Company. When the current owners acquired the buildings in the late 70’s they were in a state of disrepair: areas of the roof and floors were missing and the cornices had fallen to the street. A renovation at that time combined the buildings, creating a commercial space at street level with apartments above, and increased the height of the building with an additional floor in the straightforward style of that era. The recent project started out as routine repairs and maintenance.
Through the ongoing digitization of archival documentation by the Museum of the City of New York, historic photographs depicting the buildings with superb clarity were made available. The discovery of these vivid photographs by the project team encouraged the owner to dramatically increase the scope of work. The owners’ commitment to continued stewardship of the property and their desire to contribute to the neighborhood led to the evolution of the project into a comprehensive restoration, which would bring the buildings closer to their historic condition. At the Corner Building, terracotta quoins were replicated to match the existing in dimension and color to continue the strong corners up the entire height of the façade. Keystones and voussoirs were fabricated and installed at the windowheads based on the arrangement at the floor below. As with the Townhouse Building, the project team selected brick and mortar colors through a series of mock-ups. The monumental cornice was replicated through careful examination of historic photographs; the project team determined that the original cornice was intended to mimic limestone in color and, accordingly, the replica was fabricated to match.
In consideration of its time period and character, the older Townhouse Building was given a different treatment. The new brick dentil design at the top floor windowheads was adapted from the lower floors through a series of mock-ups. The Townhouse Building received a deep brown cornice with an alternating double-single-bracket rhythm informed by the character of painted wooden cornices, typical of the side streets in the East Village. These strategies helped compliment yet further differentiate the styles of the two buildings.
201 East 12th Street has recaptured its former glory largely due to the owner’s willingness to give back to the community and their trust in the restoration team’s vision. The result continues the lively and variegated streetscape along this stretch of East 12th Street and Third Avenue, contributing to the vibrancy and rich history of the East Village.