The building is located on the north side of the island, just off the ferry landing. It was constructed sometime between 1870 and 1879 as an ordnance storage warehouse, but was eventually converted to office use, and additional windows were added. It fell under the LPC’s jurisdiction in 1996, when the Governors Island Historic District was designated.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is the current tenant, hosting 60 artists’ residencies every year. The LMCC is looking to upgrade the facility, and put two applications before the commissioners on Tuesday – one for major work on the façade and another for the addition of a barrier-free access ramp. The two projects were presented separately – an unusual decision, even though there are two different firms working on them.
First came the façade proposal, with a design from Albany-based John G. Waite Associates, Architects PLLC. A construction-era illustration clearly shows the building planned as a red brick structure, like most of Governors Island. By 1904, the application of a stucco façade had begun on this and several other buildings on the island. In 1938, however, the “chipping” of several buildings, or removal of the stucco, started.
Now, the plan is to restore the stucco to most of the building. The purpose is part aesthetic and part functional. The extant brick on Building 110 is apparently different from the brick on several other buildings and has been prone to leaks. This façade work is hoped to fix that. The stucco will not be applied to the non-original chimney.
Commissioner Michael Devonshire, who is a preservation professional, has visited Building 110. He called the extant brick some of the worst he’s ever encountered and said the new stucco will be a “perfect solution.” Yes, “the appearance will change,” he conceded, but cited similar preservation work underway in Scotland.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said it was an “interesting application” and was a case that pitted aesthetics against historic materials. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called it a “very unusual situation.”
Manhattan Community Board 1 recommended approval of the application, but Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City called it a “surprising application.”
The Historic Districts Council objected to the application. “While in 1904 there is evidence of a stucco application, HDC does not feel that this argument is strong enough to merit the building to be re-stuccoed,” testified HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff. “What’s more, at some point either the stucco failed or it became unattractive and it was decided to be removed.”
In the end, the commissioners voted to approve the proposal unanimously and without modification.
Up next was a proposal for the ramp, presented by Keith Barnes of Adamson Associates Architects, which is based in Toronto, but has offices on Wall Street, as well as Los Angeles and London. The ramp will be attached to a door on the second floor of the building’s south side and be made of brick. The existing areaway railing will also be replaced. Abandoned HVAC condensers will be removed and new ventilation hoods will be installed on the roof.
Commissioner Frederick Bland wondered why the rendering didn’t include the stucco façade. Barnes said that was a good question, one for which he did not have an answer. As for why the ramp will be in brick, not stucco, it’s because non-original parts of the building, such as the aforementioned chimney, will not be treated to new stucco.
Bankoff testified that the brick ramp will make the stucco façade “even more striking” and suggested the applicant work to blend the ramp with the building as much as possible. The community board recommended approval of the proposal. The commissioners approved it, with unanimity.