Shutter Dogs

(top right: shuttle pintle bottom right: shutter dogs)

Preservation architects have a plethora of skill sets. Some we perform everyday, others not so often. We suspend from sides of buildings to review facades up close. We develop intricate details for modern interventions into historic fabric. Rarely, though, do we get the opportunity to observe, catalogue, and organize historic shutter hardware! CTA was tasked with reviewing salvaged shutter hardware, testing it’s operability, and cataloguing each piece for possible reuse or replication. We will then incorporate detailed drawings of these pieces into the restoration drawings, calling out existing pieces to be restored and reinstalled, or for new pieces to be made to match the existing. 

by Chelsea Brandt


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.


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


Above Broadway

99074.00_01lions copy.jpg

Twelve stories above the corner of Broadway and Walker Streets in Tribeca sits the magnificent cornice of 395 Broadway.  The 1901 sheet metal cornice was in sad condition when CTA began working on the restoration of the building in 2000.  Pieces of the ornate pressed metal were missing and in some cases the metal had corroded through leaving holes.

32. Cornice in.JPG

In order to confirm that there was no major damage to the supporting structure we cut a sizable hole in  the top surface wood decking and climbed down into the hollow cornice.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that the early Twentieth Century steel and brick support structure was in remarkably good condition.  Another surprise - when we looked down we saw intermittent flashes of yellow.  Turns out that we  were so far out over the street these flashes of yellow were taxis going down Broadway as viewed through the holes in the sheet metal.  

34. Cornice Comp.JPG

brought to you by Dan Allen



From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the USA through the portal of Ellis Island in New York Harbor

Sign up at:

Everybody knows of the Great Hall/Registry Room:

However the remaining 20+ unrestored buildings offer a glimpse into the history of the New York City. These structures include general hospitals, isolation and psychiatric facilities for immigrants needing treatment or isolation:

Donate or sign up for a tour at:

From website:

Covered corridors connected the main hospital building to infectious disease wards, kitchens, laundries and recreation facilities for patients and staff. As of today, 29 buildings are currently closed waiting to be restored and re-opened. These buildings – the empty wards, the subdued operating rooms, the quiet staff housing and the eerie morgue of the largest United States Public Health Service Hospital at the time – stand empty, awaiting restoration and new purpose. After nearly 60 years the hospital complex has been opened for special tours. Join a guided 90 minute tour that will take you through different areas of the 750 bed Ellis Island hospital.

Views from an Ellis Island hard hat tour brought to you by Matthew Jenkins.



Most of the time at On Site Insight, we like to let the fine folks at our office share the architecture of New York City: what catches their eye, and how it moves them. It’s always an added treat, then, when we get to share the goings on from inside our fair firm, and today is no different.

We are thrilled to announce that our very own Dan Allen is the new Board President of the Historic Districts Council! You can read the announcement over on the HDC’s blog, and the Queens Tribune has a lovely piece about this exciting news as well. We’re positively thrilled for Dan’s appointment (even if we are a little partial to this particular preservationist), so pop open a bottle of your most historically sensitive champagne and let’s celebrate!