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West Yard Arch & Fence Restoration
The Project: To repair and restore the 10th Street Entrance to the West Yard of St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery.
The Goal: To restore the structural integrity of the brick archway on East 10th Street, and repair and restore the wrought and cast iron gate entrance to the West Yard. In addition, sections of the adjacent wrought and cast iron fence and granite base will be cleaned and restored as a demonstration of what the entire fence might look like. The result will be a complete rehabilitation of the archway and fence sections that will enhance what is already a significant and familiar landmark in the East Village.
The Background: The archway is believed to have been added sometime in the 1920s, encasing portions of the original c. 1836 - 1838 fence (a mix of wrought- and cast-iron) in the masonry piers supporting the arch. You can learn more about the history of the archway and gate on the West and East Yard page. After concerned members of St. Mark's congregation contacted the St. Mark's Historic Landmark Fund about the deteriorated state of the arch, several tests were conducted by the structural engineering firm of Robert Silman Associates. The tests determined that for public safety it would be best to construct a temporary protective cradle and sleeve around the arch. In the meantime, the members of the team elected an action plan that called for the restoration of the fence and granite base sections on either side of the archway as a demonstration project to encourage contributions for the continued restoration of the historic elements that surround the campus.
The Construction: Following the construction of wooden-frame supports, the team from Nicholson & Galloway carefully removed all of the archway’s brickwork and proceeded to remove the deteriorated portion of iron fence underneath that had been encased in the brick for over eighty years. The arch had suffered from many years of water infiltration. As a result, the encased cast iron fence had rusted away because of oxidation. Meanwhile, the cast iron gate and the adjacent fence sections were removed and brought to the workshop of Artistic Metal Works, Inc. to be cleansed and restored.
In the 170+ years that the fence has stood around St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, some of the decorative details have fallen off or, in some cases, been forcibly removed. Certain design details called “post collars” needed to be replaced in the fence sections that were restored. Also needed was an element missing at the base of the gate that has a Greek key pattern. A foundry specializing in ironwork fabricated the collars and Greek key element, creating molds to cast these pieces, which can be applied to any future restoration of the fence. After the removal of the infiltrated brickwork, workers reconstructed the brick arch. The arch was reinforced with steel re-bars for structural integrity and ties for the cleaned and restored fence and gate to be re-hung.
The granite base supporting the fence had been covered in more than 40 years worth of paint and carbon staining. A team from Building Conservation Associates performed tests on patches of the base to determine the best cocktail of chemicals and power washing that could remove the paint and staining without damaging the granite underneath. After a few tests, a combination was found that would be best suited to reveal the original stone concealed underneath. The team at BCA applied the process to the section below where the fence sections had been removed for cleaning and repair.
Meanwhile, the fence and the gates were prepped to be reinstalled. Prior to fitting of the gates, the landing at the bottom of the stairs had been resurfaced because of deterioration and cracking. The workers from Nicholson & Galloway carefully chiseled away the entire landing, and poured a new step to be cured for the next few days. Meanwhile, the restored and adjacent fences were installed back to the original position, and the wooden crate covering the missing fence portion was removed. As the landing cured, new metal pivot hinges for the gates were anchored into the landing. The upper hinges had already been installed into the brick arch when the arch was built. Finally, the fully restored gates were installed into the hinges. Newly fabricated post collars and detail element for the gate were added. After the gate and fence sections were primed and painted and a new lock to the gate was installed, the restoration work was completed.
To take a look at the construction progress from start to finish, see our picasa album of the project.
Get Involved: There is still work to be done as the project has yet to be fully funded. The good news is that some $45,500 or 83% of the $55,000 restoration cost has been raised. Support for this project goes beyond the immediate restoration. The lessons learned, methodologies tested and implemented, and the fabrication of special cast-iron molds for missing sections can all be applied to the future restoration of this remarkably historic component of the St. Mark’s site. If you would like to join the list of donors, please contact Felicia Mayro by email or call 212-228-2781 for more information.