32 East 64 St., NY City New York Architecture Images-Upper East Side

The Verona


William E. Mowbray


32 East  64th Street, at Madison Ave.




Renaissance Revival


only 20 apartments
The first floor of the 10-story structure is rusticated limestone, while the upper floors are iron-spotted buff Roman brick, with intermediate cornices, balustrades, and window surrounds of buff matte glazed terra cotta intended to imitate stone.


Apartment Building


32 East 64 St., NY City

    32 East 64th Street is a prominent cooperative apartment building at the corner of Madison Avenue and Sixty-fourth Street in New York City's Upper East Side Historic District. Known as "The Verona" when constructed in 1907, the building was designed in the "Neo-Venetian Renaissance" style. 

    One of the building's most prominent features is its oversized classically detailed sheet metal cornice. Close to 8' high, it projects nearly 6' from the masonry facade and is 260' long. Following a careful study of the deteriorated condition of the cornice, repairs were undertaken to renew this prominent feature of the building.


steel trusses provide cornice support
Large steel trusses cantilever out from the masonry parapet to support the cornice. Metal facing of the cornice was bolted to small iron or steel ribs (as at left). Wire ties helped to pull the center of the cornice tight to the bottom member of the truss. Photo: Richard Pieper.


    In 1986, the firm of Jan Hird Pokorny Architects was hired by the building owners to inspect and evaluate the condition of the cornice and provide recommendations for any necessary corrective work. The cornice was found to be extremely deteriorated. Large sections of stamped zinc ornament were perforated and separating from the brake-formed galvanized steel that formed the lineal moldings of the cornice.

   The unusually large size of the cornice made it possible to inspect its interior (see right). It was accessible through two small hatches in the sloped roof covering the rear of the cornice trusses. The cornice itself is supported by steel trusses, which are in turn attached to the structural steel frame of the building.

Cornice section shows the manner in which the cornice was supported and attached to the building. Drawing: Michael Devonshire. Click here to see a larger version of this drawing.

    The top and rear slopes of the cornice trusses are covered with structural clay tiles supported by 2" steel tee purlins set perpendicular to the trusses. The tiles served as a base for the terne-plated steel standing seam roofing, which had rusted through in spots on the top slope. The standing seam roof on the rear slope of the cornice had been coated with asphalt but was in relatively good condition. In spite of recurrent leakage, the tiles were in satisfactory condition, and the trusses showed only small areas of superficial rusting. The galvanized steel facing of the cornice was generally in good condition, but about 30 lineal feet (roughly 10 percent) of the steel at the base of the cornice had rusted where the galvanized facing entered the masonry wall. (Water leaking into the cornice had collected there.)

Detail section shows the new cornice crown molding, edge cap and roofing that corrected a construction flaw in the original fabrication. Drawing: Michael Devonshire. Click here to see a larger version of this drawing.

    In addition, large rust holes had formed behind nearly all the decorative lions' heads on the crown of the cornice, where holes in the exposed and seldom painted ornament allowed bird nests and moisture to accumulate. The metal of the cornice soffit was in surprisingly good condition, perhaps because water entering there was able to weep through lapped seams of the steel facing.

    Other leakage was attributable to a small sloped section at the front of the cornice above the crown molding. Perhaps due to a fabrication error, the trusses were too tall to receive the cornice facing as designed.

deteriorated molding
As shown in this view, the molding applied to the modillions was extremely deteriorated. A more serious problem was that most of the zinc modillions had fractured where the integral leaf moldings met the scrolled sides, allowing them to separate from the soffit. As a previous temporary safety measure, holes had been cut in the soffit panels to pass supporting wire beneath the modillions. Photo: Richard Pieper.

    Since the facing could not be raised further vertically without the top inside corner of the modillions touching the bottom chord of the trusses, a gap existed between the top of the sheet metal facing and the cornice roof when the facing was installed. The gap was closed by a short sloped piece of galvanized steel sheet metal that was not visible from the street.

    By far the most serious problem with the cornice was the deterioration of the stamped zinc ornament applied to the exterior of the galvanized steel facing. The large 12"-wide zinc modillions projected 24" from the cornice entablature and were in poor condition. The stamped zinc had fractured where integral leaf moldings met the scrolled sides of the modillions, allowing them to separate from the soffit. As a previous temporary safety measure, holes had been cut in the soffit panels to pass supporting wires beneath the modillions. Cracks indicative of metal fatigue were also present in the fronts and sides of the modillions.

sagging egg and dart molding
Most of the egg and dart molding on the cornice had deteriorated over the years and required replacement. Photo: Richard Pieper.

    Most of the applied stamped zinc moldings were also extremely deteriorated. The cornice had been infrequently painted, and much of the ornament was thinned, perforated or broken through dissolution and embrittlement of the zinc. Lions' heads on the crown molding could easily be punctured and were tenuously attached to the galvanized steel with deteriorated soldered joints.

   Sections of leaf molding and egg and dart molding at the base of the cornice had fallen or been removed. The remaining molding was in poor condition.

The Construction cost for rehabilitation
of 260 lineal feet of cornice, including all
scaffolding costs, was approximately $600,000.
(The cost of removing the cornice would have
been approximately $1,000 per linear foot.)


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