In early 2014, we were contracted by the City of New York for a very special greenhouse restoration project.
The historic,and much needed, greenhouses at the Queens County Farm Museum outside of New York were falling apart and dangerous for visitors and employees.
We were told the original structures were built about 100 years ago with a renovation project sometime in the 1930’s.
By 2016 the wood frames were rotting so bad the roof glass was completely falling loose and crashing to the ground. Farm workers had infilled window spaces with plywood or plexiglass, but even these were falling out place!
Many birds took advantage of the open and rotting space and built nests in the mechanical fixtures near the roof.
The greenhouses served a vital role of the working farm. This is where employees plants the seeds to start many of the vegetable and flowers used at the farm every year.
I visited the farm around harvest time and honestly couldn’t quite capture what I was feeling. I’m there for business, assess the damage, offering advise, taking pictures and measurements but when we wrapped up I had the opportunity to be a spectator of a truly magical place that most New Yonkers don’t even know exist!
The quiet peacefulness of a a farm with the grazing of cattle, the rustle of corn stalks and the buzzing of honey bees was unmistakable. The pumpkins-millions of pumpkins! City kids learning about agriculture and farm animals. Couples seeking the perfect venue for I-Do’s. Even Hollywood scouts searching for the next location shoot.
One thing was certain; these greenhouses needed to get up and running again and I had to come back.
To “replace” an old structure in NYC really means “restore”. Restore means it has to be original.
This presented a wee bit of a challenge since no one today builds a greenhouse exactly the way it was done 80-100 years ago. A couple of specific challenges presented themselves to us immediately.
The glass was thin and dangerous.
Today’s glass is tempered and laminated. Back then the glass was simply annealed float glass which means, when it broke, which it easily did, it created a dangerous falling shard which could really harm a person.
The mechanics of the room were operated by hand.
Gears and levers connected to roof vents and side wall windows. These were opened and closed by hand. Today’s greenhouse would automate such features, but in a restoration, alas, the farm workers were going to have to continue their vigil.
We were up for the task and eager to restore these stately structures that meant so much to the City of New York both in their historic significance and also the contribution to the livelihood and perpetuity of the farm itself.
I invite you to follow along as our plans and the restoration began.