AMERICAS SOCIETY 680 Park Avenue Upper East Side Manhattan
For the past nine years ongoing, our firm has served as the Restoration Architect for this Landmark-designated McKim Mead and White Mansion now serving as an art museum, conference center, and office building for the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
In 2012, we authored their first condition survey and capital improvement plan, which laid the groundwork for financing and funding including a grant from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. This report detailed, among other conditions, the building’s spalling ornamental stonework/patching, deforming wrought iron balconies/grilles, split and rotting wood windows, and various points of water infiltration.
This intense documentation process led us to produce the first complete set of digital drawings ever made for this building. We used these a year later to get Landmarks’ approval to install a new front door, rear service lift and sidewalk/bluestone curb along 68th St, all of which were among the building’s more immediate priorities.
Eventually, funding came through for a more comprehensive exterior restoration, and in Fall of 2019 we prepared bid specs that drew from and expanded upon our initial findings. After reviewing these with Landmarks preservationists on-site, they initially took the opinion that the worst stone elements should be fully replaced with in-kind marble. We were only able to convince them otherwise by performing probes, marking up as-built drawings, and writing a letter explaining that the stone elements were stacked for structural stability and were thus dangerous and nonsensical to replace.
We eventually presented this accumulated work to Community Board 8’s historic district committee in the Summer of 2020, and they approved, commending our firm’s attention to detail. We bid the project out and began construction in the Fall.
At the roof level, all slate shingles were replaced and all balconies and mechanical setbacks were re-roofed. Flashings at all copper dormer windows and chimneys were replaced, and dormers were re-clad with new pre-oxidized copper. Just below this, at the cornice, artisans worked on-site to scrape and re-form about half of all marble dentils, modillions, and egg-and-darts, and we regularly inspected to verify the accuracy of their handiwork. Across all facades, brick masonry was fully repointed, brushed, and washed. At the second floor piano nobile, all wrought iron balconies were scraped, repaired, and repainted.
Before and throughout the construction process, we researched and designed several elements that had prior been missing from the building. On 68th St, we designed a new security gate that was shown on the original drawings to match adjacent window grills. By the front door, we designed and had fabricated two bronze portico lamps consistent with other lamps McKim, Meade, and White designed in their time. And at the fifth floor, we drew a new muntin pattern for the building’s singular arched window, which was before an incongruous single pane, as part of our complete window replacement job.