When a beloved New York city historical farm, nestled in the heart of Queens county, required the historically aligned restoration of its trio of greenhouses – Conservatory Craftsmen was called in.
Location: Queens, NY
Restoration: Conservatory Craftsmen
Architect: John G. Waite Associations
Materials: Accoya, Tempered Laminate Glass
Founded in 1967 the Queens County Farm Museum is NYC’s largest area of untouched farmland (47 acres) and the oldest continually operated farm in the state. This historical gem has varied in uses throughout the years but is currently open year-round to welcome visitors and school tours, giving invaluable experiences of farm life.
The Queens County Farm Museum is home to three historical greenhouses, which are still in use today – they sustainably produce vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits. These are then sold right there at the gift shop attached to the museum, and any overflow produce is distributed to local NYC food banks. However, the greenhouses were very much in need of repair and restoration if they were to continue being utilized. Because of the farm museum’s historic value, restoring and repairing the greenhouse complex presented unique challenges.
The people in charge of the greenhouse restoration project wanted to preserve the historical accuracy of the buildings as closely as possible. Through multiple restoration attempts, they had tried different contractors, but they just weren’t having success getting the attention to historical detail they wanted, as well as the superb greenhouse construction practices that they needed. When Conservatory Craftsmen was finally brought into the project, they knew they had a partner who could complete their vision for this project. When we started this project, we had to switch our thinking from industry-leading technological advancements in greenhouses… to that of a 1917 builder. And that was definitely a challenge!
We did our best to maintain the original look and function that the buildings had, while making sure to update them to meet todays improved safety standards. The foundation and supporting walls were fairly simple, but put in extra careful attention and thought to get the glass windows and roof just right. Carefully taking apart the existing metal structures, we were able to salvage many of the components and simply sandblasted and repainted them before reusing them. The frame was kept as a wood frame, but we used the innovative Accoya wood for it (read the article they did on this project). Then for the glass – we used tempered laminate glass for safety reasons, but we kept the original method of ‘fish scaling’ the glass panes. This method has the glass panes slightly smaller than modern times and then they overlap one another, giving it a shingled or ‘scaly’ appearance.
This project was an honor to work on, after all – the farm is very precious to the city of New York. Five to six thousand students a day come to visit it, most of whom have never seen livestock or have any idea where pigs come from. It’s an educational marvel and a fun field trip for kids. And we’re glad we can help preserve it for future generations.