Greenpoint’s Keramos Hall restoration wins two preservation awards

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The recent restoration of Keramos Hall, a 19th-century Greenpoint landmark known for its Swiss chalet-style wood frame, was so successful that the building’s return to former glory has won two preservation awards.

“It was a beautiful, whimsical building and to take it back to what it was before [feels] great,” said Joanne Tall, co-founder of Kamen Tall Architects P.C., and the lead architect on the project. “It’s really improved that area.”

The restoration project first won the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, the conservancy’s highest honor. The award was presented April 29 in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

“I was fascinated by how it looked in its Victorian splendor, and I vowed that I would return the façade sometime in the future,” said William Weidman, the owner of Keramos Hall, during his acceptance speech of the award.

In addition, the Preservation League of New York State gave the project its 2013 Excellence in Preservation award. This award will be presented during the league’s annual meeting and awards presentation at the New York Yacht Club on Wednesday, May 15.

Keramos Hall was designed and built in 1887 by Thomas C. Smith, the owner of the Greenpoint-based Union Porcelain Works, one of the most famous and highly-regarded U.S. porcelain manufacturers of its time, and a large New York state manufacturers. Located at 857-861 Manhattan Avenue, it was built as an office building that also provided meeting space for civic organizations. Smith was also the president of both a bank and the New York Ophthalmic Hospital.

Over time, the unique building lost its grandeur. The detail fell away and the four-sided Swiss-chalet tower roof disappeared. Eventually, it suffered the ignominious fate of being covered in unsightly, gray vinyl siding. After finding a vintage photograph several years ago, Weidman began setting funds aside to restore to its original glory.

Tall, the architect, collaborated with the family-owned Keramos LLC, working with three generations of the family to restore the building accurately. The construction mainly focused on restoring existing features and reconstructing those that were missing. Tall restored the hall to its original splendor using historic photographs and physical remains, such as historic building fabric and “ghosted” profiles left from the original design.

“Joanne Tall took charge of this assignment personally, and I want to thank her for her steadfast consistency in demanding to adhering to the highest standards in preservati­on,” said Weidman.

The family hopes the building will now represent their commitment to improving the community, culture and history where they grew up.

Updated 10:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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