Two blocks of East 95th Street just became a little bit brighter, thanks to two handsome twin townhouse renovations. Each took a pair of 19th-century buildings that had dimmed with age and restored them to their original luster.
The stately limestone-trimmed townhouses at 14 and 16 East 95th Street sit in the middle of a row of six designed by architect Henry Andersen, in 1899, in a Renaissance Revival style. They number among the last rowhouses built in Carnegie Hill designed with “American basements,” which eliminated the tall entry stoops of earlier brownstones.
The buildings were renovated consecutively and independently by Tecny Group, a design and construction firm led by architect and Carnegie Hill resident Solomon Asser. No. 14 was first, in collaboration with an independent investor. No. 16 was developed with the building’s owner, who brought Tecny on board after seeing the progress next door. The builders brought the houses entirely up to date, both inside and outside, while maintaining their elegant facades.
Both facades were cleaned and restored to enhance their decorative stonework, which varies slightly from house to house along the row. All the facades have large block coursing enlivened by finely detailed panels at the entrance doors, parlor floor windows, and along the entablatures and cornices. The relatively novel window separation on the second floor –– one-third height for the upper pane and two-thirds for the lower –– has been faithfully maintained. The entrance door at No. 1 (pictured above) is capped with an egg-and-dart pattern and the entrance at No.16 with an abbreviated portico. The original stonework has been cleaned so thoroughly that the buildings now seem to glow, lighting up the shady tree-lined block.
Neither building had significant original elements inside so each was entirely gutted and rebuilt. No. 14 had been converted to smaller apartments in the 1950s. Everything inside its shell, including the staircases, floor structure, and windows, was removed and reconstructed. The buildings’ generous widths, high ceilings, and large window openings were highlighted with straightforward new interior layouts. A palette of natural oak flooring, plaster moldings, cream-colored walls, and limestone and white-marble tiles enhances the natural light inside and cre- ates a feeling of openness. Both houses are now on the market.
The twin townhouses at 112 and 114 East 95th Street –– mirror images of one another and located at the western end of the “Goat Hill” block –– have undergone a similar, dramatic improvement. These houses, which have sandstone bases and red-brick upper floors, are part of a group that turn the corner from 95th Street to Park Avenue and were designed by the architecture firm of Flemer and Koehler from 1889 to 1890. They were both renovated simultaneously by Azor Contracting.
The renovations to these houses focused on their front facades, which had suffered in intervening decades from poor maintenance and careless adaptations. The facades were first chemically stripped of layers of paint, which had masked the original materials and detailing. Then the damaged brick grout was scraped away and repointed with a new grout color carefully coordinated to match the original brick.
The buildings’ weathered sandstone elements —including the base, steps, and the grand newel posts at the bottom of the two entrance stairways — were repaired to match those portions that were still in-tact. The newel post caps, which are sculpted in a distinctive diamond motif, were in such poor condition that the builders had to consult tax photos to confirm their original design. Nonetheless, the posts, like all the other details of the facade, have been restored with such precision that it is hard to believe they are not original. The detailing in the acan- thus-carved terracotta tiles that frame the upper windows is particularly vivid. Both of these houses are currently occupied.
Everyone living along 95th Street –– and in the neighborhood –– is fortunate that these four houses have been restored to their original beauty. Their refreshed designs beautifully and faithfully reflect the refinements of an earlier age.