Saturday, December 11, 2010

More New Work on Old Houses (1 of 2)

It is a cruel truth that poverty is among the best tools of architectural preservation. People who are too poor to mess a house up usually just leave it alone, while their richer neighbors embark on any number of aesthetically awful projects. Happily, things have changed. The rise of the preservation movement has increased consciousness across the board - including that of new owners of old houses that have have been wounded in the past.

Image 1 - This house on East 64th St. is one of a row of spec-built brownstones from the late 1860s or early 1870s. The original high stoop was torn off when it was converted to apartments. The purpose of a high stoop was to give family members a formal entrance to the parlor level of their house, while providing servants with a humbler entrance to the kitchen level below. When the stoops were demolished, the original entry halls and foyers on the parlor level were typically converted into tiny bedrooms for new parlor level apartments, while the old servants' entrance became the new front door to a multi-family building.

Image 2 - Here's a house a few doors to the west that once looked virtually identical to Image 1. As part of its reconversion to single family use, an historically accurate stoop has been reconstructed. Boy, does it look great, and not just because it's well detailed, but because it balances the composition of the facade. I'm not so sure about that window on the parlor floor, added from the look of it sometime in the mid-20th Century. The new owners presumably love it.

Image 3 - Just a closer look.

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