Sunday, February 28, 2010


It's been a couple of months since we last posted and though there hasn't been any direct work on the wall paintings, we've been busy moving ahead on fundraising and other aspects of the interior work. Below are updates on the different projects underway.

Wall conditions:
We have contracted with Ron and Amy Iles of Building Integrity Associates, masonry condition specialists, thanks to a generous year-end private donation. They will do a thorough survey of the masonry walls and look particularly at conditions that are affecting the wall paintings. The survey is scheduled for March 10th, so let's hope there's no more snow to get in their way before then!

We have also submitted a grant application to the Hyde and Watson Foundation to fund the remainder of the work needed to assess and plan for addressing the wall conditions, including the preparation of drawings, consultation with a structural engineer, and consultation with an architectural firm specializing in the preservation of historic buildings. Tremendous thanks to Susan Mathisen of SAM Fundraising for her invaluable assistance in this application.

We are also very fortunate to have made contact with Michael Devonshire, an architect and professor at Columbia University's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Mike has not only provided his time pro bono to consult on the building and its needs, but is bringing in a team of his students, Catherine Smith, Benjamin Baccash and Susan Shay, to study the building conditions as part of their course of study. Thanks so much to all of you, we look forward to the results of your great work!

Last but not least, Steve Weintraub of Art Preservation Services, his wonderul employees Chris and Ben, and equally wonderful student Linsly Boyer of the NYU Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center have provided their expertise and equipment (again pro bono, and as part of a student project) to examine the walls with a thermal imaging camera. Results so far were inconclusive due to the close similarity between interior and exterior temperatures - it was a bitterly cold day - Chris and Ben and Linsly will return with additional equipment that will help overcome this minor wrinkle. Thanks again to Linsly for arranging this and to all for coming, we look forward to rescheduling in the next couple of weeks.

We are especially thrilled to have so much student involvement in this project, and to be able to make it an educational opportunity. We are also so encouraged by the great community of people that have been drawn into the project - as the congregation knows well, the Stanton Street Shul is a place that has a unique appeal!

Stained Glass Windows
We've also been hard at work planning for the restoration of the stained glass windows. Two grant applications have been submitted and we will have a site visit from the New York Landmarks Conservancy on March 10th. The plans are to fully restore the two large windows on the front facade, replacing all the old patching materials with historically appropriate glass, repairing and cleaning the old original glass, and repairing or replacing the wooden framing elements as necessary. Mary Clerkin Higgins, a stained glass artist and conservator, examined the windows and suggested that the original flat glass of the upper window may be of a type that predates the 1913 building. She also noted that the glass in the center Star of David medallion is of a later type, and may have been added in later to replace a missing original center piece. We are also planning to examine what remains of a stained glass round window on the rear wall, above the ark, which was covered over sometime in the 50s or 60s after repeated break-ins. The area was covered over with a round painted wood replica (of sorts) on the inside, and a sheet of iron on the outside. We found pieces of glass and lead in the recess under the iron sheet, and we will see if we can potentially reconstruct parts of the window.

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