Landmark day for four BK buildings - Library, courthouse among latest round of designations honoring historic past

The Brooklyn Paper
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Four Brooklyn buildings that have been lovingly restored were among 10 recognized recently by a citywide organization dedicated to preservation.

The Brooklyn Central Library at Grand Army Plaza and the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office at Cadman Plaza were recognized by the New York Landmarks Conservan-cy, which awarded them Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards.

Also so honored were two frame homes that have been restored, the privately owned Federal townhouse at 135 Joralemon Street, and the 18th century Hendrick I. Lott farmhouse, at 1940 East 36th Street in Marine Park.

Each of the sites was nominated by architects, preservationists and other “constituents” of the Landmarks Conservancy, according to Amy Sullivan, manager of events for the organization.

The call for nominations sent out by the group explains that the sites selected must, “Demonstrate excellence in the restoration, preservation or adaptive reuse of historic buildings, streetscapes and landscapes that preserve commercial, residential, institutional, religious and public buildings.”

The awards – “a celebration of outstanding restoration projects throughout the city as well as some extraordinary individuals,” according to Peg Breen, the conservancy president — were distributed at an April 30th ceremony held at Manhattan’s Eldridge Street Synagogue, 12 Eldridge Street.

Alex Herrera, the director of technical services for the Landmarks Conservancy, explained the rationale behind the selections.

With respect to the Lott House and 135 Joralemon Street, he said, “It’s so unusual to get two nominations for early frame houses in one year.

“The reason we picked both,” Herrera went on, “is that one (135 Joralemon Street) is privately owned and the other (the Lott House, which is under the stewardship of the New York City Department of Parks and the Historic House Trust) is a public building, and we thought it was interesting to showcase the public and private sector.”

In addition, said Herrera, “The Lott House restoration is admirable in that the whole neighborhood pitched in” in the effort to preserve and restore the venerable structure.

As for the house on Joralemon Street, it was, recalled Herrera, “Almost lost, almost burnt to the ground.” While firefighters, he went on, had been able to extinguish the fire, the house itself “was a wreck,” and was “left to rot” until it was sold to a “community person who restored it and saved it from demolition by neglect.

“Since it’s a wooden house, it’s particularly fragile,” Herrera stressed. “It’s a miracle that this little house from 1830 was not only saved but restored.”

As for the U.S. Court-house and Post Office, Herrera called it, “An incredible project, ongoing for 11 years. There was just an incredible commitment by the government to restore the building, which is magnificent, and it was restored beautifully.”

In particular, Herrera cited the open atrium which, he said, “used to be kind of grim because the skylight had been removed.” Now, however, the skylight has been replaced and the structure “has been restored to its 1885 appearance.”

Finally, the central library, noted Herrera, “Is such a gem of a building. It’s unusual because not a lot of major buildings were built at the time it was built, between Art Deco and modern.

“It’s one of the most important sites in Brooklyn because it’s such a prominent place,” Herrera went on. “Between the planning, designing, raising money and doing it, it took about 10 years, and it came out so beautifully. They didn’t cut corners. They stuck with it and did the right thing. We wanted to applaud that.”

While the organization likes to include sites from each of the five boroughs, this year, only Manhattan (with five sites), Brooklyn (with four sites) and the Bronx (with one site) were represented.

“I think Brooklyn is booming,” noted Herrera. “There’s so much good work going on in Brooklyn now.”

This is the 17th year that the Lucy G. Moses Preser-vation Awards have been given out by the Landmarks Conservancy.

This year, besides the Brooklyn sites, five Manhattan locations and one Bronx location were also recognized, as were two individuals, Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society, and Avi Schick, the interim chair of the Empire State Develop-ment Corporation. The Roosevelt Island Historical Society was also recognized for its preservation leadership.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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