The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce announced the Erasmus Hall High School renovation as the winner of the 2011 Building Brooklyn Award™ in the Historic Preservation category.
Stalco Construction served as general contractor and BJLJ Engineers & Architects, P.C. were the architect for the extensive restoration of the landmark school, which is frequently referred to as “The Mother of American High Schools.”
“We are honored by the recognition of our renovation work at the Erasmus Hall High School by the Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce and the members of the jury,” said Stalco Principal Kevin G. Harney. “This $11.4-million undertaking restored the oldest high school in New York City, the sixth oldest existing public high school in the nation, and one of the largest at 500,000 square feet.”
“The 2011 Building Brooklyn Awards™ nominations represent an exciting project pool. We saw a number of applications this year offering new and innovative open space options to Brooklyn residents and visitors and a great deal of historic restoration and adaptive reuse,” said Brooklyn Chamber President Carl Hum.
Located at 899-925 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, the school complex is a designated New York City Landmark. The oldest building within the campus, the Erasmus Hall Academy, built in 1787, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus currently houses five high schools with a student body of approximately 3,500.
According to Stalco Vice President and Senior Project Manager Robert V. Isbit, “The project encompassed replacement of 50 different roofs and 2,000 linear feet of coping stones on six elevations, repointing of 40% of the brick façades, brick repairs, replacement of 240 windows and 30 exterior doors, waterproofing of cellar vaults extending below Flatbush Avenue, and interior renovations and water damage repairs to selected areas, including the historic auditorium.”
“The vast masonry and exterior restoration of an occupied, landmarked, six-building school complex required an enormous amount of pre-construction and logistical planning, scheduling, staging, coordination, and permitting,” recalls Stalco Superintendent Keith Ward. “The Stalco team addressed logistical challenges that included working in a school occupied 10 hours a day all year, no shutdowns during classes, managing 10 subcontractors and 150 laborers, strict safety and security procedures, and repairs to roofs constructed of different materials and in a multitude of styles and shapes – gable, flat, sloped, historical slate shingle, copper standing seam, and black top.”
The project leadership coordinated all activities with the school’s administration and performed the majority of work between 4:30 PM and midnight and on weekends. The team erected 45,000 square feet of scaffolding on the inner courtyard side and utilized five hanging scaffoldings for repairs to the outside facades. 1,600 linear feet of sidewalk bridges protected pedestrians.
The interior renovations encompassed 30 spaces totaling 25,000 square feet, including classrooms and the soaring, 35-foot-high, 8,600-square-foot auditorium, which originally served as the school’s chapel. The renovation work in the auditorium included extensive plaster repairs, water damage removal, repair to plaster ornaments, and painting. Stalco erected an elaborate scaffolding system that allowed artisans to access the ceiling, walls, balcony, and clerestory windows.
Stalco also waterproofed a large underground coal vault, which currently serves as a transformer room. The team excavated the ceiling and walls of the vault to the depth of five feet below grade. Stalco utilized Kemper fluid-applied waterproofing membrane to both the ceiling and walls of the underground structure. As the vault extends beneath Flatbush Avenue, the process called for partial street closings, redirection of traffic, and close coordination with the Department of Transportation.
Erasmus Hall High School, originally called Erasmus Hall Academy and founded in 1786 by Dutch settlers in Flatbush, was the first secondary school chartered by the New York Regents. The clapboard-sided, Federal style building, currently located on the school campus’ inner yard, was constructed in 1787 on land donated by the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church. The building continued to serve as a school and was donated to the public school system in 1896. It was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966.
The renovated campus consists of four Collegiate Gothic buildings with Tudor details designed by Charles B. J. Snyder. The structures were completed between 1903 and 1940 with participation of architects William Gompert and Eric Kebbon. The four wings of the Erasmus Hall structure surround the original, 18th century school building and a large 140 by 450 feet courtyard. Snyder’s innovative design ideas, which focused on allowing high amounts of light and air into educational facilities, are represented in the architecture of the Erasmus Hall High School.
The school’s buff brick facades have limestone and terra cotta trim and feature central entrance towers with oriel windows and crenellated parapets, Tudor-arched entrances, label moldings, and large window groupings. Exteriors of all buildings feature light-colored brick, masonry and sandstone blocks, and terra cotta coping stones. The style of Erasmus Hall evolved over the years, so that the most recent buildings are simpler, with less ornamentation, but retain the general characteristics of the earlier ones, giving a sense of unity to the entire composition.
An independent, 11-member panel of Brooklyn-based architects, planners, economic development experts and city officials selected the winning projects. Projects were judged on a list of criteria including: design excellence, positive economic impact, enhancing neighborhood services and amenities, context to the surrounding community and sustainability.
The winning projects that will be honored on July 14, 6:00 – 9:00 PM at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, at 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.