In late Fall of 2006, I purchased a row house in the Park Slope/Prospect Heights area of Brooklyn. The building was initially constructed in 1898 along with 11 others all of the same design. The only element unique to each building is the keystone above each of the twelve entrances; something I’m still trying to research as to their origin and why the architect/builder chose to use those that are present.
I purchased the building with the intent of converting it to condominiums for resale. I’ve since moved into the ground floor duplex and have retained two of the upper floor units for rental, selling one to help offset the costs associated with the project.
The renovation was a complete gut, as the building was fire damaged in the 80s and then reconstructed without any of the detail from the original design. I put some of Old Brooklyn back into the building, using standard details of the era along with some modern twists on that theme.
The front entrance was the last part of the project I addressed. After trying to strip and repair the existing, I realized it would never yield the results I would want.
The building as it looked when I purchased it. The masonry was painted red and white. This was done quite a bit around Brooklyn and in other areas of the city, as it was easier and cheaper to paint than it was to clean the soot that stained these buildings from the coal burning fireplaces that heated them. I had the paint stripped from the building and the masonry cleaned and re-pointed.
Here’s a pic showing a neighboring building and it’s entrance.
Some pics of the process.
Here, I removed the original stoop. I widened the access to the lower level, providing easier access for bicycle storage, etc. I used open risers on the front stoop to allow natural light to illuminate the lower entrance during the day, else it would just be a dark, narrow spider-infested stairway. The lower landing provides an area to store the trash cans out of sight.
My attempt at stripping the paint.
The process of replacing everything.
Checking the finish in daylight.
The door is solid white oak. The rest of the entrance is a mix of poplar and pine. This presented a problem for me during the finishing phase. I chose to use a glaze to even out the tones and grain pattern of the various wood species. I have to say myself, this being the first time performing a finishing job such as this, it didn’t come out all that bad.
Last Summer I lightly sanded everything and resprayed it using spar varnish that I custom tinted. Here it is as it looked this past Winter.
Here are some of the other keystones above the entrances of the neighboring buildings.
-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn :)