A Restoration in the Bronx
A newly restored lobby and the team who made it all possible.
Located just minutes from the newly renovated and renowned Yankee Stadium, Noonan Towers is a Bronx N.Y. apartment building that maintains an elegant pre-war facade, with a lobby boasting intricate decorative moldings. Legend has it that the iconic Yankee baseball player, Babe Ruth, once lived in this building. The surrounding neighborhood is nestled atop a hill with bold views of the Harlem River and Yankee Stadium, thus the name, Hillbridge Village. Noonan Towers was constructed in the 1930s. At the time, it was advertised as one of the most modern apartment houses in the Bronx.
Restoration of the beautiful lobby at Woodycrest has been a long anticipated project for me. I was first contacted in 2016 by Tim Ross, senior vice president for the Goldfarb Property Co. We began our creative brainstorming process which continued until this past June. We had previously worked together over the years on several other beautiful restorations, and this lobby was no exception. (One of our past restoration projects appeared in the August 2011 issue of W&C; the Riverside Drive restoration project).
The lobby has a 30-foot high ceiling and room dimensions of 45-feet by 25-feet, and all decorated with intricate plaster moldings and carvings from one end to the other. Unfortunately, large sections of the plaster ceiling moldings were missing with a lot of water damage as well. The upper walls, above the relief work, were adorned with arches and columns, and more carved decorative pieces. The bottom half of the walls were surrounded with a 3-foot carved relief with moldings, and the lower wall had an outdated thick stucco with roping around the arches, as well as other outdated decorations. It was crumbling and yellowed. Everything was in need of repair, modernizing and a refreshing new paint job.
A Fresh, New Look
So the arduous task of designing a new fresh look began with finding a company that could replace the antiquated missing plaster pieces on the ceiling. After careful research, I found a great company that could do the job. They went up to the 30-foot ceiling and made molds of each different type of molding and carving so they could replicate it perfectly. They succeeded with flying colors and it was all given a pristine white paint finish.
My job was to use my decorative painting skills on the 3-foot molding with relief at 15-feet high, and circumferencing the perimeter of the room, approximately 150-feet. I was perched up on my double Baker at 12-feet high, for four weeks. I worked around every trade involved with this enormous undertaking. We all worked very well together, and danced around each other with great rhythm. In order to appreciate this even more, let me set the scene. It’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, no air-conditioning inside, with at least five different trades working at the same time, like a well-oiled machine. Dust sucking machines, floor polishing machines, fans drying the floors, drills, and screw guns ... all sounding off at the same time. It was actually more like a symphony of hard working tradesmen. And in the midst of all this chaos that I was overseeing from my scaffold, sweating and melting like the rest of them, one of the fans was directed up at me. This was an incredibly thoughtful and considerate action. This was the caliber of people I had the pleasure to work with.
So my task was to repair the damaged plaster shapes and paint a clean white semi-gloss finish on the relief area. We decided on a metallic silver finish for the intricately detailed background for contrast. For the large medallions, I used a custom metallic charcoal finish for the background and details.
The 12-foot high walls below me were refinished to perfection, skim coated to a “smooth as a baby’s bum” finish. The floors were replaced with a gray toned stone and polished to a beautiful satin sheen. They updated the entrance to the lobby elevator to make it accessible. A laundry room and locked mailroom were created, as well as a modern gym. What more could a tenant want? Beauty and practicality.
In the center of this grand lobby, a modern sculpture was commissioned. It was comprised of four arches done with iron and lights, to adorn the newly modernized lobby.
The final phase of my job was the marble lined foyer. The ceiling and moldings were really in such decay. The foyer walls were constructed of three different marbles to create arches and columns. The capitals on the columns were decayed and discolored. We cleaned them up and gave them a metallic silver finish to match the lobby, and blend with the marble of the columns.
Sections of the Egg and Dart plaster molding that surrounded the entire ceiling was missing sections. Because it was already filled in and built up by a previous attempt to repair, we felt the most practical steps to take were to paint it in using a technique called Tromp l’oeil, “Fool the Eye.” We painted in the Egg and Dart detail and used shadowing to give the illusion of a two-dimensional carved molding pattern. It completely blended in with the remaining 80-year-old molding.
Above the arch of the large metal entry door, was a 4-foot section missing from a 4-inch marble molding. We utilized our plaster skills to fill it in and shape it to blend with the existing marble molding. Then we used our faux marbling techniques to match it with the existing marble. It blended in and you would never know it was ever broken. A very cost effective method of replacing or repairing old existing marble. Mission accomplished in the foyer.
A Job Well Done
At this point, after many hours, days, weeks in extreme New York summer heat and humidity, I was actually a little disappointed to be finished. I felt proud that I performed my craft to the best of my ability, under these extreme conditions and that everyone, including the owner of the Goldfarb Properties, were happy. I am even more proud to have aided in the restoration of this beautiful old lady. If only the walls could talk. Well, on to the next project. W&C