The Spence School
Question: How do you make a
structure larger if you can't build an addition onto it?
Answer: Just dig a hole
Simple, right? Not exactly.
But that was the challenge faced by the project team that
renovated the former Rose Mansion at 56 E. 93rd St. on behalf
on the Spence School, a private, all-girls school.
Because it is a landmark structure and the façade
must remain intact, an addition could not be built on top
of it. And surrounding homes in the residential neighborhood
where it is located prevented additions from being built to
the east or west of the mansion.
To create the additional space, approximately 6,000 cu. yds.
of bedrock were removed from beneath the existing structure
to make room for what would become a gymnasium. To support
the building during excavation, a 12-ft.-deep and 80-ft.-long
steel truss was created and the weight of the building was
transferred from the original support system to the new one.
The truss is now hidden within the structure of the building.
"The site has extremely limited access," said a
jury panel member. "Maintaining the existing structure
during construction had to have been difficult."
One of the last mansions built in New York City, 56 E. 93rd
St. was completed in 1931 for William Goadby Loew, a stockbroker
and sportsman. The architect, A. Stewart Walker of Walker
& Gillette, worked on the house with his wife, Sybil,
who was a decorator.
Among some of the finer details included in the mansion are
Georgian pine paneling and Corinthian columns and pilasters
in the drawing room.
Spence School bought the mansion in 1999 for $15.5 million
from the Smithers Alcoholism Treatment and Training Center
with plans to turn it into a school for 241 pupils in kindergarten
through fourth grade. The rest of the school's 622 pupils
attend class at the school's main building at 22 E. 91st St.
To serve the needs of the new school, plans for the former
mansion called for building 15 classrooms, a gymnasium, dance
room, music rooms, computer labs and a science room.
The project team worked with the New York City Landmarks
Preservation Commission to replicate and preserve existing
elements of the building. The original slate, lead-coated
copper and limestone were saved and reused where possible.
Internal architectural elements such as the pine paneling
in the original drawing room were removed, refurbished, returned
to the site and reinstalled piece by piece.
Impressions were taken of the plaster elements so they could
be recreated. The recreations were then installed in place
of the originals in the entry hall and drawing room.
The original penthouse was turned into a fifth floor of classrooms
with a skylight window running along the north side of the
floor. This floor sits under a sloping roof and is set back
from the façade so that it cannot be seen from the
street, a requirement under city landmark regulations.