1911 Building's Rebirth Is Huge Recycling Effort Using Original Bricks, Facade
KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
May 05, 2009
The city of Hartford had all but written off the decaying apartment building at 87-92 Atwood St. on Asylum Hill.
Originally a "Perfect Six," the 1911 structure had last been a rooming house, attracting drug-dealing and prostitution. Vacant for more than a decade, its exterior walls recently began to bow.
Now, a building that was headed for demolition is being reshaped into two row houses, the most ambitious project for a neighborhood group that buys and renovates neglected residential buildings and sells them to owner-occupants.
What sets the Atwood Street project apart from other Perfect Six renovations around the city is that just the facade is being saved. The rest of the building is being demolished and rebuilt. From the street, the building will appear as it always did, and brick from the demolished portion will be used in the reconstruction.
"Our goal is to create more owner-occupied housing," said Kenneth D. Johnson, executive director of the Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance. "We saw this as a nice opportunity to help accomplish that."
The Atwood Street building is worth all the trouble because of its architecturally significant facade, rendered in the classic style of the Perfect Six. Perfect Sixes were built in a style unique to Hartford and in the early part of the last century often housed factory workers.
The Atwood Street facade was rendered in yellow brick, in vogue when the building was built, and decorated with splayed lintels above the windows and quoins framing both sides. Atop the three-story structure is a sheet metal cornice embellished with garlands and modillons.
Demolition is underway, and the facade and sides of the building are supported with massive wooden buttresses. In the backyard, volunteers sort through bricks from the demolition, scraping off mortar and piling them neatly on pallets.
Historians praised the project because it will preserve the integrity of the streetscape and avoid an out-of-place building or empty lot.
"To duplicate these things these days is nearly impossible," said Tomas Nenortas, historic resources adviser at the Hartford Preservation Alliance. "It's not only the cost, some of it is just a lost art."
The project, including demolition, is expected to cost about $580,000. It is hoped the three-story row houses with three bedrooms and two baths will sell for $190,000 each when they come on the market next spring. The shortfall will be made up by grants from the state, the city and private funding, Johnson said.
The city agreed to work with the northside alliance after the group purchased $20,000 in tax liens and foreclosed on the property, welcoming the prospect of preserving the character of the street, which has three other renovated Perfect Sixes.
"The last thing you want is a street with a lot of missing teeth," said David Panagore, the city's development services director.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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