Project Profile: Building the Queens Farm Museum Greenhouses Phase III

Long before we were able to bring the new greenhouses to the Museum, the old greenhouses had to be removed. Carefully, removing the remaining glass to avoid injury was a challenge. The competent crew of Conservatory Craftsmen got the job done without a scratch.

Dumpsters were filled for recycling the wood products and glass. Metal parts were carefully removed and cataloged. Measurements were confirmed again, and numbers were sent to the shop.

As window frames were produced, glass measurements were taken and tempered, safety glass, was put into production. Each opening had a location ID and a dimension of its own.

The roof glass became quite a matter of discussion. In the ‘old days’ greenhouse glass was lapped, like fish scales. Since large sheets of glass were unavailable, small pieces that lapped over each other fit the need. So, we had to come up with an efficient glass, that was strong and safe and could lap.

 

We designed a glass panel using 1/8″ tempered sandwiching two pieces of glass together over special lamination. This effectively made the glass in the roofs of the greenhouses stronger than the glass on the windshield of your car.

The installation of the glass, the step we call glazing was a blast from the past. We installed glazing putty (pretty much not used in glazing in 50 years) to set the glass. Then we used special, stainless steel brads with a unique tool to hold the glass in place. Finally, we used a specially formulated silicone to seal the glass from the exterior. Each step took a glazier about half an hour and there are 400 pieces of glass on each roof!

 

Roof vents were carefully designed to open with the gearing but close tight to seal and drain away water. In today’s world, that would be a simple matter with rubber seals. For historical purpose there are no gaskets of any kind on this project, each piece of the greenhouse had to be carefully fit to make sure water did not enter the greenhouse and it drained away from the greenhouse.

The project was also featured on Accoya.com, Click Here to read more.

 

Project Profile: Queens County Farm Museum Phase II

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Phase II began with the process of determining what materials would be best for the restoration. As with all historical restoration projects we attempt to use the same or similar materials used in the original structure. However, we also need to take into consideration environmental/climate conditions, durability and public safety.

We began this process by first looking at the wood that would be used to reconstruct the frame of the greenhouse. Cypress was one consideration as it has been used for many years in the construction of greenhouses and conservatories. Cypress wood is readily available and highly resistant to moist environments due to its natural built in oils that act like preservatives.

However, a new timber product Accoya was favored and ultimately chosen for the project. This project was featured on their website Click Here to read more. Accoya has been widely used in Europe for many years, and is now becoming popular with designers, builders and architects in the United States. It is a sustainably-sourced wood that has under gone a non-toxic acetylation process. This process produces a material that is environmentally friendly, extremely strong and durable. Accoya is also the perfect medium for the paint coating, Technos, we planned on using for the surface. Once painted the historically correct color the greenhouse will be restored to its original state and ready to withstand another hundred plus years.

Once the material for the frame was selected the pain-staking process of dismantling the original greenhouse was begun, carefully removing and categorizing each piece. Like an architectural dig, each piece was carefully measured and drawn to scale so the CNC machine could then copy the designs and create exact duplicates.

When it came to the replacement glass for the greenhouse, public safety had to over-ride historical significance. The original roof frames were made to hold 2 layers of 1/8″ annealed laminated glass. Laminated glass works like that of a car windshield – if it breaks it won’t cause extensive harm. We felt very strongly that the glass, especially the roof glass, should all be tempered. Tempering the glass meant that the entire project would have to be modified to accept thicker, more durable glass. In the end, current safety standards won over historical.

As with the frame, all the metal gearing and structural components had to be cataloged, removed and sand blasted before powder coating and re-installation. Many of the components were missing and created quite a hunt for historic greenhouse parts in various ‘boneyards’ around the country. In order for the original metal gearing to work the greenhouse needed to be reconstructed exactly as the original structure was. Site measurements were taken once, twice and then again to make sure every part and partial would be an exact fit to the original.

The work begins. These large piles of rough looking wood are the Accoya. We carefully create the image of the wood items to be made, enter them into the computer and the CNC takes these rough piles of wood and turns them into the finished product.

Three coats of Technos, shop painted and we are ready to install.

Next: Constructing the greenhouses.

Project Profile: Queens County Farm Museum- Phase 1

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.

Conservatory Craftsmen and the Inauguration

What could possibly be the connection between these two things?

Well, here’s the story. A few years back, Conservatory Craftsmen was commissioned to add a new conservatory/orangery onto the carriage house of the old Naval Hospital in Washington, DC. The city was renovating the building and then it would be leased to Bayou Bakery, a well-known eatery in the area.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we learned that the Bayou Bakery would be hosting the NBC Washington news crew broadcasting coverage of the inauguration events. In fact, the crew would be spending most of the day enjoying the atmosphere of the conservatory. In their regular broadcast the night before, NBC Washington did a story on the Bayou Bakery and we were shocked to find our crew featured on television. You see, some of the images that NBC Washington used to produce the piece showed the conservatory being constructed. The people you see working on the conservatory are Conservatory Craftsmen’s crew.

Watch our video below that shows an edited version of the broadcast with a couple of photos that we added on at the end. By the way, the paparazzi have just been unbearable since this aired.

Historic White House Conservatories

Would you believe the White House probably had the most historic US Conservatory you have never heard of? The conservatories of the West Wing, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

white-house-conservatoryPres. Buchanan was the first to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room. One could enter a private world of plants and flowers grown for decorating the entire White House. The flowers grown in this conservatory provided for one of the most elaborate White House weddings in history. Nellie Grant, the daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, had the entire East Room covered in flowers. The crown which she wore upon her head was made of orchids from the conservatory as well. Unfortunately,the structure burned in 1867 and was replaced by iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. They were most fortunate the entire building did not burn at that time.

In the 1870s and 1880s additional conservatories were added to the exterior of the White House, including rose houses, a camellia house, orchid houses and a house for bedding plants. One was removed to add the West Wing by Teddy Roosevelt, the other was removed for no apparent reason that we can find. However, in their day, these structures were used to grow all the produce and flowers that graced the White House — all year long.
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Mrs. McKinley loved to celebrate the holidays in the White House Conservatory, as evidenced by stereoscope photos she used for her Christmas Cards. Abraham Lincoln grew lemons in the White House Conservatory and gave them as gifts. On his last day, he met a foreign ambassador in the conservatory, peeled an orange and ate it while offering another to his guest.

A conservatory on the White House has its place in history when our Nation had an abiding appreciation for the very objectives you are achieving through your garden — the growth of fresh nutritious foods.

Today’s conservatories easily meet the green building standards President Obama is so committed to. In many of the structures we build, we use solar glass that collects Solar Power, produces electricity and are completely self-sufficient. Imagine a year round garden room that literally costs nothing to operate and extends your passion for healthy, nutritious food to year round.

What the White House is now missing, you can have for your own. Call us and we will help you fulfill your dream.

The Missing White House Conservatories

Pres. Buchanan was the first to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room. One could enter a private world of plants and flowers grown for decorating the entire White House. The flowers grown in this conservatory provided for one of the most elaborate White House weddings in history.  Nellie Grant, the daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, had the entire East Room covered in flowers. The crown which she wore upon her head was made of orchids from the conservatory as well. Unfortunately, the structure burned in 1867 and was replaced by iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. They were most fortunate the entire building did not burn at that time.

In the 1870s and 1880s additional conservatories were added to the exterior of the White House, including rose houses, a camellia house, orchid houses and a house for bedding plants.  One was removed to add the West Wing by Teddy Roosevelt, the other was removed for no apparent reason that we can find.

However, in their day, these structures were used to grow all the produce and flowers that graced the White House — all year long.

Mrs. McKinley loved to celebrate the holidays in the White House Conservatory, as evidenced by stereoscope photos she used for her Christmas Cards.  Abraham Lincoln grew lemons in the White House Conservatory and gave them as gifts.  On his last day, he met a foreign ambassador in the conservatory, peeled an orange and ate it while offering another to his guest.

A  conservatory on the White House has its place in history when our Nation had an abiding appreciation for the very objectives you are achieving through your garden — the growth of fresh nutritious foods.

Today’s conservatories easily meet the green building standards President Obama is so committed to.  In many of the structures we build, we use solar glass that collects Solar Power, produces electricity and are completely self-sufficient.  Imagine a year round garden room that literally costs nothing to operate and extends your passion for healthy, nutritious food to year round.

What the White House is now missing, you can have for your own. Call us and we will help you fulfill your dream. 

 

Historic Conservatories

When we travel across the country building new conservatories, we often stop to pay our respects to the old timers that graced so many cities, large and small, in America from 1890 to today.

postcard-humboldtThe Conservatory at Soldiers Home in Milwaukee was built 1889 and demolished in 1955. Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson replaced the above structure with ‘The Domes’, which in now under renovation. The original conservatory was a part of an initiative by President Lincoln to build a network of veterans housing throughout the United States. Soldier’s Home was design to mimic a small community with various jobs, a store and a post office. This early program was designed to rehabilitate soldiers back into civilian life.postcard-baltimore

 

We are happy to say you can still visit this beautiful structure today. At 125 years old it is the second oldest in the United States.
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The Conservatory was built around 1900 and is located at the Toledo Zoo. Plan a stop in Toledo, see Jamie Farr park and a great old conservatory!
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There were 2 greenhouses built in Eden Park. One was strictly for plants and the other, built in 1902, was open for the public. People loved it and over 300,000 visitors came the first 2 years! You can visit the Krohn Conservatory to witness over 3,500 plant species from all around the world! My last visit there was through a wonderful butterfly exhibit.
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Lincoln Park was built between 1890- 1895 and you can still visit today. Located at the Chicago Zoo, it is a timeless masterpiece and revered by the people of Chicago.
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The Phipps is one of the top 3 conservatories in America. Endless paths wind through well appointed gardens and plants. This is a must see for any conservatory enthusiast.
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Probably the number 1, must see conservatory in America. Come during Christmas and see models of New York and more model trains that you thought possible. I recently visited and saw art work by Rodin and Piccaso. You never know what you will see, but I guarantee, you will never forget it.

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Bought by an individual in Oakland to build on his own property, his finances ran out and we gained. The recently renovated conservatory is the pride of Golden Gate park.

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Ahhhh, home again. The McNeeley, Como Park conservatory is where is all started for this conservatory builder!

Orangery or Conservatory? What is the Difference?

queen-anneOrangeries have become the most popular conservatory project in England today. An orangery is much like a conservatory. One deciding feature is more ‘mass’ on the wall design and less window. This differs from a typical conservatory, which strives to have little in the way of structure on the walls, and the maximum amount of glass.

The orangery fits well with ‘Georgian’ architecture or homes/buildings that need more structure to give a good visual fit.

The Queen Anne Orangery at Kensington Palace in London was built in 1506 (shown to the left).

Its design allowed citrus trees to be rolled out onto the terrace during good weather and rolled back into the orangery when not.

The large windows were all opening doors at that time. It is currently open to the public for traditional tea time, situated among the formal gardens of the palace.

Move ahead in history a bit and the Orangery’s primary use is still the same but to also add space and a tie into one’s existing home.

img_5606-e1411679526222img_5632Here are photos from a recent Conservatory Craftsmen orangery project. You will notice that part of the roof is actually solid and flat. This is like a ‘soffit’ on the roof and allows us to conceal the gutters. Today’s modern truss joists allow us to build this sort of roof and engineer it for maximum loads.

 

img_5745Now, also exciting news! Open the front wall with a folding door exclusively from Conservatory Craftsmen, and you have an indoor/outdoor space.

 

img_5747img_5748The interior has some nice sun blocking features and attractive soffit in which accent lighting is placed. Also, sound and mechanicals can hide in this soffit.

 

img_5749A wide open space, lots of light, a true transition to the outdoor garden from your orangery. This could be you!

 

Working With Conservatory Craftsmen

People say to us all the time, “You’re in Minnesota, (home of the Minnesota Vikings) how does this work long distance?” Well, I admit, we have to be very efficient to make it work, but it has been working for many years, so I guess that tells you, we are very efficient! When you call, we will chat about where you live, and what the purpose for the conservatory might be. Some people are looking for a place to relax and watch the stars and the moon. Others want to raise fresh fruits and vegetables all year around. A place for a swim under the stars maybe another reason, or, a combination of any of these spaces. It is important for me to determine the application intended. In other words, what are your expectations? If I’m a good listener, the final product will be just what you expected and more! I am also very sensitive to the age and design of your home. The room must ‘work’ with the architecture. (See my blog on Fit or Folly for further explanation).img_4802
Some calls I receive, an architect has been employed and there are drawings in place. Most inquiries have no drawings, so we start from scratch. In all these examples, I am assuming this is not a commercial building, but it may be a newly constructed home, so we need to know that as well. The question remains, how do you do this from Minnesota?

First of all, after we have discussed the above mentioned subjects, I look at some photos of your home, that you will be asked to email, and I will study the measurements you have taken for me. They are not exact measurements to build from, but close enough for me to create a ‘concept’ drawing. I do hand sketches, and our own staff, licensed architect, takes the notes that I give to him and he creates a wonderful elevation, various view drawing of the conservatory I think I hear that you would like. All of this work has been at no cost to you! We are happy to consult and work with our clients to show them that they can work with a family from Minnesota, and we are more than capable of producing a wonderful product. If you want to modify the drawing, no problem, but once we come to a basic concept that fits your needs, we then work to figure every screw and nail in the project to come up with a reasonable price for your end construction.

water-wheel-low-1This is called the budget. It is not a bid, but it gives you a very close idea of the final cost, and it has options, so you can control pricing yourself. If you approve of the budget and the design, I make arrangements to come to your home and we sit in the kitchen table and sort out the details. I take lots of photos and accurate measures, while we discuss options for the room and any other details that might affect the end design (like roof drainage from your house).

If we are still on track, we enter into a ‘design agreement’ which is an agreement that charges us to produce a detailed set of architectural drawings for the project, along with specifications and final pricing. OK, now you ask, who does what? If this is all new construction, a local contractor may have to get involved. What we build is a specialty product! Glass structures can/should only be built by people who are trained, experienced and know just what they are doing. LEAK is a four letter word and not one we use in our day to day vocabulary!

Who builds it? We do. This is not sub contracted to locals. No way. Only our staff touches your room and takes full responsibility for its outcome. We have calls from people who have bought conservatories from another company and had another builder install it. Then the trouble starts and guess what? Two companies on either side of you pointing fingers at each other and the guy in the middle (that is you, guy or gal) gets stuck with the problem. Now, don’t get me wrong. When a hurricane hits or there is a big storm, our phone rings and rings but NEVER from our customers. Awhile back, we wrote about Amdega Conservatories, who unfortunately went out of business. Our phones we’re ringing off the hook back then too- but this time from their customers who lost thousands of dollars in deposits and needed help. So, rest assured, we stay with our customers for years after the installation. We all become friends and good acquaintances who share our great stories and joy of owning a crystal palace.

Conservatories Built and Designed in the U.S.

There are many conservatory design options to consider.

Conservatory Craftsmen has had a busy year, traveling across the U.S. in our trailer, getting to know our customers – and each other – quite well! We’ve had the chance to document some of our work, which allows us to appreciate the planning, the human connection, and the beautiful results once a project is through. Here’s a premier project we completed in Pennsylvania.


See more on our new website. There’s lots to see and appreciate through our gallery and design options. If we can help answer any questions regarding building or enhancing a conservatory or greenhouse, please reply to this email and we will be in touch to schedule a call.

You may also reach us by phone any time: (888) 345-7915