**Become a member of The Art Deco Society of New York at www.artdeco.org. With over 25 events per year, ADSNY is an active cultural and social non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating architecture, decorative arts, fashion, and music from the 1920s and 30s! I look forward to seeing you at the next event!**

26 April 2011

SoHo Cast-Iron Building Finally Restored!

Usually, I walk swiftly past the cast-iron buildings in SoHo in order to beat the long lunch line at Fanelli's, but this week I took notice of a building that had been under renovation since I moved here almost three years ago. The structure was still under scaffolding; yet, something about the facade had changed. I turned around and headed back to the office to do some research. My findings prompted me to write about the research process in this week's post. For those of you who are interested in preservation it might seem like a daunting task to begin even thinking about where to look for information on a building. Rest assured, the resources you need are mostly online. The following is an abbreviated process on how to research basic information on historic structures in NYC.

The first step one should always take if interested in the preservation of a building is actually look at the property in the round. Your eyes are your best friends. From what I can tell, 122 Greene Street is located on the corner of Prince Street across from the Apple store. Wolford's boutique sits at the ground level and four condominiums rest on top, making it one of many mixed-use structures in the area. The building struck me as curious in 2008 as it was painted entirely white and had permits posted on the property. I thought to myself, was it just painted? The possibility was unlikely as the district is historically landmarked. All of this information comes from physical examination.

For a more thorough property search, you must check the Department of Buildings (D.O.B.) website. However, you will need a block and lot number of the building in question. This can be found on the NYC Finance website under Property/Property Information. The block and lot number are essential in retrieving any and all information one seeks out at the D.O.B. Once the property report is pulled you can essentially search through all the documents on that building--permits, complaints, violations, and applications to name a few. Sometimes the information is cryptic and rather brief, but for landmarked properties all of the permits are issued by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commisssion (LPC) and contain a full, essay-style report outlining the work to be performed. LPC ensures proposed work is in compliance with the building and preservation codes for historic structures.

I continued sifting through the property report, and eventually came across the permit issued by LPC in 2009 outlining the proposed restoration efforts. Bingo! Permits are always a reliable source of information on changes made to a building. Block 499/Lot 15 is described in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District Designation report as the following: "106 Prince Street (a.k.a. 122 Greene Street) as a store and tenement building designed by W.E. Waring and built in 1866." This one sentence provides some clues about the structure. If you possess a general knowledge of architectural history you will immediately note the erection date of the structure. 1866 marked the end of the Greek Revival and the beginning of the Colonial Revival period in America; the sash windows, decorative cornice, and symmetrical composition of 122 Greene Street speak to this style.

Today the scaffolding stands erect and serves as a showcase of advertisements for the shops underneath, but it also contains the contact information for one of the contractors on the project. So, I called Preserv, a Brooklyn-based restoration and project management firm specializing in historic preservation, and inquired with one of the project managers who worked on 122 Greene Street. He confirmed the project consisted of stripping the brick of paint and reapplying cast-iron supports, but could not recall the history of the building. Although he was unable to elaborate on the structure, it is never a bad idea to speak directly to the design firm that is managing the renovation. They just might be able to provide additional information not found on the D.O.B. website, including the length of the project and materials.

If time permits, I suggest visiting the NYC Municipal Archives to look up original building documents and possible tax photos in order to complete a comprehensive search of your building since its erection. In addition, The Office of Metropolitan History, founded by historian and writer Christopher Gray, contains permits and photos for buildings erected in NYC between 1900-1986. Each historic district also includes maps, photos, and designation reports on the area and certain buildings. In my case, the SoHo Neighborhood Alliance is the organization I would contact for additional information on 122 Greene Street.

These resources are not only useful for those interested in preservation, but also for those who have a general curiosity in the history of their block or apartment building, and even the value of their property.You'll be amazed at what you find!


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