When 35-37 West 23rd St. was built in one of New York’s prime shopping districts, the 1880 neo-Grec mixed-use building was originally designed and used as a furniture store. With red brick and buff sandstone framed by fluted cast-iron piers, the first and second floors had showrooms with 10-by-12-foot glass storefront windows, displaying furniture and household decorations. Over the years, the building housed various enterprises, ranging from a bookstore to sewing factories and condos. In the process, the elaborate details of the original storefront were lost—painted over by time and use in a landscape that’s forever changing. Until recently, that is, when a group of architects, building experts and preservationists brought the building back to its original glory.

The project was completed in conjunction with a new residential building, requiring a special permit from the city and for 35-37 West 23rd St. to be returned to “sound, first-class condition.” But the results have done much more, officials for The New York Landmarks Conservancy suggested. Nestled in New York’s historic Ladies Mile District, the project “revealed a building that is rich with ornament detail, color and contrast,” they wrote, netting one of the conservancy’s highest honors for preservation efforts: the Lucy G. Moses Awards. This year, WindowFix, a small, Brooklyn-based, family-owned door and window company, was among the eight companies awarded for their work on 35-37 West 23rd Street’s restoration.

“The building itself has an interesting history,” said Linda Childers, who handles digital marketing for WindowFix. “The original structure at that address was demolished and was replaced with the 1879 version. In 1897, it was a bookstore, and the self-proclaimed arbiter of obscenity Anthony Comstock had the printing plates confiscated for, ‘printing an immoral book,’” she said. “By 1982 the fifth floor had become a luxury condo where controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe lived.”

By the time a 1940 tax photo was taken, many elaborate details of the storefront had been lost, Childers said. “After detailed research, the façade was recreated, and we replaced not only the storefront, but the windows on the upper four [levels] as well, which were painted in historically accurate colors. Of particular note, on the second floor, are the monumental wood pivot windows, as mentioned by conservancy president Peg Breen in her introductory speech at the awards ceremony.”

The recent renovation sought to reclaim the building’s original façade down to the sheet metal cornice and windows.

“Our CEO Ernesto Cappello is a hands-on kind of business owner. He took all of the measurements of the windows above,” Childers said. “He was also a part of the probing to identify areas with condition issues of the second-floor casements.”

According to Cappello, the project called for a wide range of window types, including inswing casements and double- and triple-hung windows. He was struck by all of the project’s notable and intricate details, including brick moldings, custom pilasters, large storefront windows and transition points from floor to floor.

As with most historic renovations, the project presented its share of difficulties.

 

“There were many [challenges],” Cappello said. “From gathering information at the start of the project, anticipating all the details Landmark Preservation Commission will require, meeting clients’ needs and coordination and logistics in occupied spaces. Dealing with large sizes and engineering installation details was particularly challenging on this project.”

Paul Mulcahy, WindowFix’s in-house project manager and historic preservationist, took the design intent of the architectural drawings and photos of the storefront and turned them into shop drawings for manufacturing.

“On these drawings the steel components were added and, along with the engineering drawings, they brought the other trades together,” Cappello said.

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope Inc. sourced the storefront’s oversized glass from Turkey. Additional materials included 3/8-inch Guardian SN70S (tempered) glass, ½-inch air spacers and 3/8-inch clear float (tempered) glass.

One unforeseen hiccup involved a large storefront window that broke during installation. Fortunately, WindowFix received a replacement from AGNORA, which reduced the lead time considerably, Cappello said.

“The glass was sourced from Turkey and to re-order from there would have taken months to replace,” Childers said. “Luckily for us, we were able to source a replacement from Canada, which reduced the lead time greatly. And the results are nothing short of spectacular.”

The project took two years to complete.

According to WindowFix officials, the renovated building features Euro-inswing casements that lend “a touch of modernity to its classic aesthetic.” But the crowning glory of the project is in its custom-crafted wood storefront, they suggested.

“Fashioned from the finest Sapele mahogany, this storefront is a testament to the timeless artistry of woodworking, featuring seamless integration of swing doors and fixed windows, including one magnificent specimen measuring an impressive 10 feet by 12 feet,” officials wrote.

WindowFix has been instrumental in preserving countless historic landmarks in New York City over its nearly 40 years, company officials told [DWM].

“Preserving the architectural past for future generations is a gratifying accomplishment,” Childers said.

An awards ceremony took place April 10, 2024, at New York’s Plaza Hotel.

 

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