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Cast Iron Facades

Our increasing involvement with the analysis and repair of cast iron buildings in New York City has allowed us to gain first hand knowledge of their structural behavior, which often entails partial dismantling for observation. Because we feel it is important to share what we have learned with other preservation professionals, hopefully augmenting their ability to diagnose problems with these often endangered buildings, we’ve been talking about this topic recently.

Marie Ennis gave a talk at the Association for Preservation Technology Annual Conference in Denver in October, 2010, on the subject of cast iron facades as shear walls. The presentation touched on: industrial developments that provided new options for the building industry; what is a “cast iron” building from a structural point of view; what goes wrong with cast iron buildings and how can they be repaired today. Two New York City project case studies were presented: 287 Broadway and 361 Broadway. Both buildings present a relatively long facade on the northern side street and a narrow facade on the avenue.

Marie and fellow partner Don Friedman collaborated in March 2011 on an article for the Journal of Architectural Conservation, “Cast Iron Facades as Shear Walls.” The article builds on what was presented at APT and provides additional detail information about the development of cast iron facades in the United States and how various components and parts contribute to the overall lateral stability of these buildings. We hope to see it published shortly.