Location: Upper East Side, New York, NY
Landmark Status: NYC Individual Landmark
Original Architect: McKim, Mead & White
Date of Construction: 1910-1912
Date of Restoration: 2011-2012
Scope of Work: Copper-Tiled Roof Replacement, Terra Cotta Cornice Reconstruction, Limestone Balcony Restoration, Limestone Repair and Cleaning
Awards: Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award (New York Landmarks Conservancy), Hats Off Award (Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts), Stanford White Historic Preservation Award (Institute of Classical Architecture and Art)
998 Fifth Avenue is a 12-story, limestone-clad apartment house that was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. Located across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the northeast corner of East 81st Street, it was the first apartment house constructed on upper Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Upon its completion in 1912, the building was recognized as a benchmark of restrained elegance in apartment house design and was regarded as the most expensive and exclusive multi-family home in the city.
Although the building used the best materials and construction methods available at the time, a hundred years of weather had taken its toll. The copper-tiled hip roof had been removed due to leaks and replaced with roll roofing. The terra cotta cornice was cracking from corrosion of the structural steel outriggers that supported it. The limestone ashlar of the façade was generally sound but the balustrades at the 5th and 9th floor balconies were deteriorated and had been extensively patched over the years.
Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC was engaged by the Board of Directors in 2011 to oversee the exterior restoration of the building. Work included restoration of the copper-tiled hip roof using one tile that had been salvaged from the original roof and the McKim, Mead & White drawings as guides, complete reconstruction of the monumental terra cotta cornice with structural stainless steel, restoration of the limestone balconies, and repair and cleaning of the limestone facade.
The hip roof and cornice reconstruction also provided an opportunity to create a concealed system to support hanging scaffold platforms from cables threaded through tubes passing through the cornice, for easier maintenance.
The project was completed in December 2012, one hundred years after the original construction of the building.