A glance skyward will show it — the star. -Joseph Brodsky

You may already know that CTA's renovations on the 165 year old Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights included a copper roof, but have you ever looked inside? and up?

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

A few months ago Dan Allen told me a story about an aspect of the church we did not work on, the ceiling. It went something like original ceilings were painted over with a concoction of this-n'-that, possibly rabbit skin glue .... they washed it off in 2014 .... it revealed a celestial masterpiece covering the ceilings and walls of the sanctuary.

I have had a post-it on my computer ever since.

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Grace Church was designed by Richard Upjohn, renowned Gothic Revival architect, and constructed from 1847-1849. The church opened in 1848, and the ceiling was painted over in the early 20th century with a pattern of false wood, or "faux bois", and the walls were turned some pale, unflattering shade of beige. See below.

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

From what I have read, the original designs could still be faintly discerned through the false wood pattern. “Sometimes, if the sermon wasn’t gripping, I’d look up and see all this detail,” said parishioner and leader of the renovation project, Margaret Ann Monsor. (NY Times)

EverGreene Architectural Arts, the conservation, plaster and decorative painting subcontractor, made a discovery: The faux bois was in distemper paint, a water-soluble combination of pigment, chalk, water and an organic binding agent. Rabbit skin glue perhaps?!  After a professional cleaning with sponges, rags, water and a gentle detergent the original brightly colored ceiling pattern was exposed and brought back to life.

BEFORE  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

AFTER  I Photo by Whitney Cox

BEFORE  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

AFTER  I  Photo by Whitney Cox

After being covered for 100 years, Phase I was completed for Easter 2014.  The team included Leo Blackman Architects (now BLuHR), CTA Architects, & Evergreene Architectural Arts. This project was honored with the NY Landmarks Conservancy’s 2015 Lucy Moses Award.

Photo by Whitney Cox

Photo by Whitney Cox

-brought to you by Dara Magagnoli