This Old House – Second Acts
How four forgotten buildings made spectacular comebacks by Anne Krueger December 2000
The 100-year old Second Avenue Firehouse in Bay Shore, Long Island, is a lot like a cat with nine lives. After serving time as the home of Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, the building became a synagogue and Hebrew school, then a factory, then a rooming house. By the time it was adopted by the nonprofit South Shore Restoration Group in 1998, the derelict structure was unrecognizable as the Stick Style Victorian it once was. Now the meticulously restored building has been born again – as a gallery and home to an artist-in-residence. The firehouse is an adaptive reuse success story, one of many across the country. “These significant structures – schools, barns, old hardware stores – have outlived their original purpose but not their charm or usefulness,” says preservation consultant Mimi Rodden, formerly of the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “it just takes the right people to save them and make them their homes.”
The right people, she says, are those who understand both the virtues of finding a new use of an old building and the very big challenge involved in doing so. The virtues are self-evident. “it’s all about preserving our heritage in a way that’s not the typical house-as-museum,” says architect J. Timothy Anderson, who made history in 1965 when he converted the Prince Macaroni factory on Boston’s waterfront into luxury housing. “Adaptive reuse is living preservation. And it offers unique residential spaces you can’t find anywhere else.” In this cookie-cutter suburban world, “people are looking for originality,” says Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of Cities Back From the Edge. To her, adaptive reuse is “the highest form of architectural creativity.”
Like any restoration, however, a reuse can be expensive and tricky. “I have to constantly tell my clients to be realistic; to be aware of the building code issues and possible difficulties getting financing,” says Rodden. Old public or commercial structures may not be in areas zoned for residential use and weren’t designed to provide warm, comfortable, or safe living spaces. “A barn or a church can be a prescription for bankruptcy if you have electric heat and poor insulation,” warns Anderson. “We know now to check out a building right away, to knock holes in the walls to see what’s there,” he says. “If you plan from the start to do a gut rehab you have fewer unforeseens. Nobody likes surprises.” Except when the project is finished: The transformation of each of these four buildings is a delight to behold.
Historic photos of the Second Avenue Firehousehelped architect Anthony Szekalski identify and restore original details, such as the fish-scale siding, dentilated cornice detail, and patterned front door. A local workshop recreated the missing bell tower; a crane lifted the upper portion into place
“We saw this as an opportunity to both restore a beautiful old building and launch an arts initiative,” says South Shore REstoration Group president Susan Barbash of the Second Avenue Firehouse. “That way the building can have a life that keeps on giving back.”
Restoring the building was a wonderful challenge, says architect Anthony Szekalski, whose work on it won the 2000 adaptive reuse award from the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “We were lucky to have photos from the historical society that showed quite a lot of helpful detail.” Surprisingly, it was also good luck that the building was covered with imitation-brick asphalt shingles. “It was ugly, but it preserved the historic skin of the building,” explains Szekalski. “When we removed it, much of the original clapboard siding was still there. With that and the photographs from the historical society I was able to establish the heights of the missing hose-drying tower and bell tower so we could accurately reconstruct them.”
During restoration the structure was actually lifted 5 feet into me air. “Like many buildings this age, the locust posts were rotted and the building was too low to the ground, so water was being absorbed into the floor joists,” he says. “We were able to dig out a crawl space so that the joists didn’t sit on dirt. We set up a footing, insulated, then lowered the building back on top of the foundation.” Inside, they installed all-new mechanical systems.
“We hope this structure will serve as an anchor for a lot of other buildings of historical significance that have been neglected over the years,” says Szekalski. The building rises 55 feet and towers over the surrounding homes “like an exclamation point,” says Barbash. “You can’t miss it.”
Survey of Bay Shore Jewish Community from 1897 to 1933 May 1956
“In 1919 a new opportunity presented itself. The old fire house on Second Avenue was for sale. It is thought the amount was less than $1500. At that time the appearance and atmosphere of the Synagogue in the old firehouse can be described in the following words: as you entered, directly in front of you, in the center of the room, there was a huge, pot bellied stove. Long hard benches filled each side- women were seated to the right and men occupied the rows to the left. Services were conducted in this manner until 1933.”
Bay Shore Sentinel and Journal
250th Jubilee Edition 1958 Spirit of Progress Exemplified in the Fire Department
“District has moved ahead constantly: department Is approaching its diamond jubilee: has the latest in Fire fighting equipment. The history of the Bay Shore fire department goes back nearly 75 years. Prior to that time there had been no organized effort at fire fighting and when a building caught fire, the neighbors formed and sometimes were able to subdue the fire. More often than not, they stood by helplessly while the building was destroyed.”
Preservation Notes Newsletter
Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities
Fall 2001 Bay Shore Second Avenue Firehouse
Located in the center of the community, The Bay Shore Hook and Ladder Company No.1 is a largely intact and representative example of a late 19 th century firehouse on Long Island. Built during the late 1880’s in response to a devastating fire, the building displays many of the distinctive design characteristics of the Victorian period Stick Style, including a variety of decorative exterior sheathings, exposed roof rafter ends and paneled equipment doors. South Shore Restoration Group has rescued and restored this prominent landmark for use as a gallery and artist residence. The firehouse is an important reminder of the community’s late 19th and 20th century history and its rehabilitation represents a key component of local revitalization efforts. -The New York State Preservationist
The New York Preservationist
New York State and National Registers of Historic Places 2001 Long Island-Islip:Bay Shore Hook and Ladder Company No.1 The New York Times In the Region Long Island Reviving Main streets by Historic Preservation- Bay Shore and Oyster Bay invest in the past to enhance the future.
by Diane Shaman July 26 1998
The New York Times
In the Region
Long Island Reviving Main streets by Historic Preservation-
Bay Shore and Oyster Bay invest in the past to enhance the future.
by Diane Shaman July 26 1998
” The two story building at 17 Second Avenue half a block off Main Street looks nothing like the graceful firehouse capped by a 50 foot tower that it was when it served this South Shore Community from 1887 to 1914. The tower is long gone and all that remains of the fire house is a dilapidated structure covered by crumbling asphalt shingles that most recently was used as a rooming house. The original from t facade is hidden behind a shed added by the later owners. The cheap exterior changes hide the original woodsides main structure, which survived intact along with such features as the birdseye molding around the windows and a wainscotted barrel vault ceiling on the upper floor. A restoration of the building to begin this fall is part of an overall plan to revive Bay Shore’s downtown, which for years had suffered from blight and decay. Now like many main streets around the country and around Long Island, Bat Shore’s is once again being discovered and its historic buildings are being restored.”
One block at a time by Regina Marcazzo August 22, 1999
Article follows the firehouse project from start to finish and notes it importance as a revitalization effort with in the town.
Bay Shore, Monday 10 a.m. June 11, 2000
View photo of steeple of bell tower before positioned on to building.
In Islip- Home is where the Art is-
and at this restored site the doors are open to all by Rhoda Amon Feb. 4 2001
Features the first artist in residence Garrido Charles Schneider .
Business and Technology -Restorations
New buildings bring honors to area architects –
by Jamie Martorana Jan 1 2001
“Architect Anthony Szekalski restored a 100 year old firehouse in Bay Shore and adapted it for use as an artist gallery and home. “View this article cover.