Precious Heirloom

Often we get a chance to work on a gem of Architecture and NYC history. One such gem is the Poppenhausen Institute in College Point, Queens. The building was commissioned by Conrad Poppenhausen, a manufacturing tycoon and philanthropist. One of the building’s distinctions is that it held the first free kindergarten in the entire country in 1870. The spirit of the institute was to educate and train people, regardless of creed, color or gender.


The structure was Landmarked in the 1970’s, but faced possible demolition in the 1980’s. Locals and community leaders successfully prevented its destruction and it now still stands, albeit in need of restoration, still serving the community, holding classes and providing performances.

There are still remnants of the furniture used by students from over 100 years ago in some rooms!


In the cellar there are still two jail cells. These were used by the sherif, also in the building, mainly to hold the inebriated ‘guests’ roaming the streets after hours spent frequenting the many breweries of College Point in the early part of the twentieth century.

The main hall has beautiful detailing that is brought out by all the light filtering in from the south through the exceptionally tall wood windows.


We are working with city agencies and the board of the institute to specify a program of repairs at the exterior that may include replacement of all the windows, some of which are nearly twenty feet tall, double-hung units. The windows are wood units that are in varying states of decay. They are also all single glazed units. We hope to replace them with wood window units that replicate the appearance of the originals, but provides the users of the space better climate control and a more comfortable learning and entertaining environment.


Working on historic structures and preserving them, while sometimes also modernizing components that can be improved, such as windows, is like taking care of a precious heirloom passed down through generations through the family… like grandma’s knit sweater.

It’s an honor and a joy to be able to do this. The Poppenhausen Institute has always known this.. and for more than a hundred years, they have allowed the professionals that have helped preserve, restore, fix, protect, and revitalize the building to leave their mark in the spacious attic of the building. There are signatures scratched into the attic wall that date back to 1902, and some as recent as last year. There are some names that we recognize on the wall, of consultants we have worked with.


Soon, with honor, we hope to inscribe CTA Architects onto this wall.

by Shukri Sindi


Designing an Accessible Playground

When designing and reviewing submittals for a new ECC (Early Childhood Center) Playground at PS 206Q and while reviewing an existing playground and whether it met accessibility requirements at PS 099K, I began to question what components of playground equipment must meet accessibility requirements and how. With Matt Jenkins assistance, we were able to locate an ADA accessibility guide dedicated to the design of playground equipment and were able to review the existing/proposed equipment at both schools. To my surprise, the existing playground equipment at PS 099K and all of the proposed components at PS 206Q met accessibility requirements largely by use of transfer platforms at both. From the US Access Board: A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas, "A transfer platform is a platform of landing that an individual who uses a wheelchair or mobility device can use to lift or transfer onto the play structure and leave the wheelchair or mobility device behind at ground-level.” In addition to these transfer platforms allowing access to elevated play components, any ground-level play components at both schools also met the accessibility requirements.

Although both schools play equipment met accessibility requirements by use of transfer platforms, the guides accessibility requirements are based on the total number of play components and additional requirements must be met for play areas with more components. In case you are curious, here is a link to the accessibility guide:

^Existing Play Equipment at PS 099K

^Existing Play Equipment at PS 099K

-by Ryan Esparza


Skyscrapers in the Background


When envisioning New York City, skyscrapers are typically the main focal point of the image; they are the foreground surrounded by an abundance of hardscape. But when standing on the roof of this upper west side building, you get a very different perspective of the city. Looking out at the city, in the heart of Manhattan, it’s a sea of green! The trees are lush and seem to go on forever… with skyscrapers in the background, taking a back seat to nature.


Another gem you get from this roof is, what feels like, a backstage view of the Museum of Natural History surrounded by greenery.

-by Nicole Grosso


Don’t Let the door hit ya on the way out!

Sometimes a bike ride is not just a bike ride, sometimes it’s a history lesson. On a recent ride from Owl’s Head Park to Bensonhurst Park along the Brooklyn waterfront, this rider stopped to take a photo of a small sandy beach and pier, apparently no longer used or accessible to the public. Just east of the Verrazano Bridge is where the site lives. Later internet research (thanks revealed an important and historic site. 

Denyse Wharf (as I learned it was called), was named after Denyse Denyse (sounds like Dutch for Denis to me.. or GoT), a prominent New Utrecht resident in the late 1700s. Denyse ran a ferry to Staten Island from his wharf at this site. "The British and their Hessian and Scottish compatriots under General William Howe chose the Denyse Ferry as the place to land in New Utrecht for a major offensive on August 22, 1776, after massing 437 ships off Sandy Hook by July 12th. The Narrows was relatively undefended since the Americans were expecting a landing at Gravesend. According to legend, a Tory (loyalist) woman waved a red petticoat from Cortelyou’s house to signal the invaders: many New Utrecht residents were loyalists. The patriots had only three cannons on the promontory above the Narrows, and fought vigorously, but the British warship Asia responded by firing a volley that damaged Bennett’s and Denyse’s houses, but curiously, not Cortelyou’s... 15,000 British troops entered New Utrecht virtually unscathed; they were quickly able to overrun Kings County, bivouacking in the various homesteads throughout the locale. Howe himself commandeered Cortelyou’s house. Denyse himself was a patriot. In 1783, when the British evacuated New York City, they left from the Denyse Ferry." -from 

by Rose Bothomley


The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float

Not many work days can bring me back to my childhood, except this special day sent chills down my back. Saturday nights growing up consisted of trying to sneak behind my parents back to watch ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’, and one very memorable episode haunts me to this day. ’The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float.’ Who knew 20+ years later a site survey visit could bring back such amazing yet horrifying memories. 


— by Nick Pepe

Thoughts on the Restoration of Notre Dame

After last week’s tragic fire at Notre Dame, the conversation quickly turned to questions about restoring the famous cathedral. As a prominent member of the historic preservation community and CTA’s preservation specialist, our very own Daniel Allen was asked to weigh in on this important conversation, and we have collected his interviews here.

From New York One:

And Inside Edition:

An interview on KNX InDepth (the segment begins at the 26:50 mark):

And another with KCBS in San Francisco:


Grand Central Park

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One of the best-known works of architecture in New York City is Grand Central Terminal. Most New Yorkers and many tourists have marveled at it more than once, but did you know it left a mark on the Bronx as well? More specifically in Van Cortlandt Park! 

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When deciding what materials to use, much thought was given to what would stand the test of time and weather. Nineteen stone samples were placed in Van Cortlandt Park in 1905 to test how well the different materials would hold up to the elements.

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The stones are located off one of the back paths in the park, and are being slowly reclaimed by nature.

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-by Monica Barraclough

The Spite Building

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Ever wonder why there is a small notch in the Herald Square Macy’s building? When Macy’s announced their plans to build the worlds largest store in the early 1900s, the small corner building was snapped up for an astronomical sum of money. Referred to as the “Million Dollar Corner”, the purchaser was suspected to have been working on behalf of a rival department store company, who at the time had the world’s largest store. Macy’s shrugged it off and proceeded to build around the little building, hence the notch you see today. 

-by Katie Ipcar