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February 27, 2024
An Ironclad Restoration: 31 Greene Street

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details.”

SUPERSTRUCTURES’ restoration of 31 Greene Street (George W. DaCunha, 1876) in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District demonstrates how attention to restoration details at almost one hundred discrete locations creates a unified standout (photo 1).

The restoration preserved most of the original building fabric—as we do whenever possible. The cast iron facade was restored over the original brick structure, as opposed to a modular restoration of facade components reinstalled on a new structure (as with the restoration of a virtually identical building at 74 Grand Street).

Some of the building’s lost and cracked cast iron components were newly cast out of necessity, but the majority are original, including the reuse of some that had been stored in the cellar. The team that restored 74 Grand Street borrowed three cornice roundels from 31 Greene Street to reproduce elements necessary for their restoration (photo 2).

Over time, the south side of the facade had settled more than the north side, so all the cast iron elements for the column capitals and decorative window surrounds required unique modifications to fit (photo 3). At every water table, a sheet metal cap had been installed over the cast iron windowsills. Once these caps were removed, the team found the original sills with decorative elements still intact in most locations. Where salvageable, these elements were repaired and retained.

The building’s badly deteriorated windows were replaced with wood-sash units, more faithful to the original than aluminum replacements (photo 4). The new windows are glazed with insulated glass to improve the efficiency of the building envelope.

One of the most evident changes of this restoration is the facade’s new paint color scheme. The palette, based on a color facade plate published in The American Architect & Building News (1877), was previously approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as appropriate for the Historic District, so the owners chose to use it in this restoration (photo 5).

In keeping with the requirements of the Historic District, the building’s historic sidewalk vault lights were kept in place, but the corroded diamond-plate steel covering was restored to protect the vault from future water infiltration (photo 6).

Today, the restored facade blends with the many other carefully preserved buildings on the block, unifying the Greene Street frontage and filling in a glaring gap in the Historic District.

SUPERSTRUCTURES Engineers + Architects

14 Wall Street, 25th Floor, New York, NY 10005
(212) 505 1133


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