Location: Broome Street between Broadway and Mercer Streets, New York, NY
Landmark Status: SoHo Cast Iron Historic District
Original Architect: John T. Williams
Date of Construction: 1895-1896
Date of Restoration: 2016-2019
Scope of Work: Terra Cotta Repairs and Restoration, Limestone Repairs, Face Brick Replacement, Copper Cornice Repairs, Window Repairs and Repainting, Fire Escape Repairs and Repainting
Awards: Preservation Award (Victorian Society in America)
451 Broome Street, a 13-story loft building constructed 1895-1896, was once known as the Silk Exchange. Extending the full southern width of Broome Street in the Soho Cast Iron Historic District, the tall, narrow “sliver” façades at Broadway and Mercer Street stand out in a neighborhood of low-rise structures. The LPC landmark designation report describes the building as an “extravagance in stone, brick, terra cotta and iron,” with elaborate terra cotta ornament at the upper floors that contrast with the more restrained limestone and buff-color brick at the lower floors. Like many of the historic commercial and manufacturing buildings in Soho, it eventually became joint living-work quarters for artists and was converted into residential units in the 1970s. Today, it remains a cooperative apartment building with many long-term residents of the area.
In 2016, Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC was hired by the co-op to review and address deteriorated masonry conditions at the building facades. In particular, many terra cotta units were observed to be in advanced states of disrepair and unsafe. Prior to specification of repairs, WBMA completed a unit-by-unit survey of all terra cotta units. This included visual inspection and sounding, followed by assessment of conditions based upon a variety of criteria.
A complete façade restoration project began in June 2017 to address the unsafe conditions and perform extensive maintenance and restoration work at all four facades. The work, completed in October 2019, included terra cotta repairs and replacement, limestone repairs, face brick replacement and anchoring, copper cornice repairs, window and shutter repairs and painting, fire escape repairs and painting, and boiler flue replacement.
Repair and replacement of damaged terra cotta units comprised the majority of work at this substantial project. Repairs included the replacement of 540 terra cotta units provided by Boston Valley Terra Cotta, the careful removal and resetting of 140 terra cotta units, the pinning of 210 terra cotta units, and the patching of 200 terra cotta units.
The façade restoration at 451 Broome Street has brought this gem of a building back to a safe and beautiful condition, with a focus on in-kind replacement and salvage of historic material, and an eye towards a long-term, cost-effective approach.