Allston

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Contact

231 East 22nd Street, Suite 23 New York NY 10010

Email: office.ny@ratio.com
Fax: +88 (0) 202 0000 001

St. Paul’s Chapel

Location: Amsterdam Avenue and West 118th Street, Manhattan, NY

Landmark Status: NYC Individual Landmark; National Register of Historic Places

Client: Columbia University

Date of Construction: 1904-1907

Date of Restoration: 2018-2019

 


 

While its red brick, Indiana limestone and cornice height echo the surrounding campus buildings, distinctive details such as marble accents, decorative burned brick patterning and the geometry of the building itself serve to differentiate the chapel. A Greek cross in plan, the chapel is topped at the crossing by a dome pierced by sixteen arched stained-glass windows. With two exceptions, all of the chapel’s varied roofs are green glazed Ludowici terra cotta tiles. Inside, the color scheme and decorative treatment are derived from the construction materials themselves: salmon-colored structural brick, rose-colored Guastavino tiles, and terra cotta ornament tinted to harmonize with these elements.

 

Within 25 years of its construction, leaks began to surface at the interior that were attributed to poor characteristics of the original roof tiles. Walter B. Melvin Architects was retained in 2010 to perform a roof conditions survey, archival research and materials testing, and provide recommendations for repair. In 2018, WBMA and Femenella & Associates were engaged by the University to oversee a comprehensive restoration of the building exterior including roof areas, building masonry, and stained-glass windows at the dome.

 

At the exterior, tiled roof areas were replaced down to the substrate. Existing, nonoriginal terra cotta tiles were replaced with the original interlocking “T12” profile, custom cast from original molds and matched to what was likely the original “dull green” color, based on archival information. Historic copper work was carefully replicated throughout, and original cypress wood elements were repaired. The dome’s sixteen stained glass windows were conserved using fully reversible solutions, and isothermal protective glazing installed. With access in place at the interior for stained glass work, a comprehensive cleaning and restoration of the vibrant Guastavino tile dome, apse and chancel ceilings was added to the project.

 

Columbia University’s commitment to a long-term approach for all aspects of the chapel’s restoration was rewarded with two preservation awards in 2020.