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Lucy Moses Award: St. Mary the Virgin

Two project that we worked on received Lucy Moses awards from the New York Landmarks Conservancy this year. The first is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, at 145 West 46th Street in Manhattan. It was designed by Pierre L. LeBrun of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons in 1894, in a thirteenth-century French Gothic motif. Per the Landmarks Designation Report, and reporting from the era, the church was built rapidly due to the innovative use of a steel frame. The steel skeleton made St. Mary’s “the first of its kind and size to be built in this or any other country.” Purdy & Henderson, one of the first structural-engineering consulting forms for buildings in the US, were brought in to design the steel frame that supports the Gothic design. To support the vaults steel transverse and diagonal ribs spring from the eighteen steel columns, nine on each side of the nave (plus the four in the apse), which support the braced saddle-back roof frame above.

The underlying steel frame is in good condition. Old Structures Engineering’s work was related to the non-bearinglimestone facade panels and decorative ornament, specifically the underlying attachment and anchorage elements. The work included rebuilding of the west spire with a solid reinforced concrete core for adequate anchorage of the limestone veneer; in-situ stabilization of the east spire including injectable grout infill of the masonry core; reinstallation of the copper cross with flashing and anchorage to the base stone and cross bracing to the main roof structure; and dutchman repairs to the spalled and missing stone elements. Shaquana Lovell was our Project Manager and designed the repairs, with Marie Ennis as the principal in charge and engineer of record.