During New York’s prewar housing boom at the turn of the 19th century, decking out your townhouse with carved woodwork, stained glass and marble mantels was the norm — not the exception. Today, well-kept historic detailing means a premium in the market. For the first quarter of 2017, brokerage Halstead tracked a 5 percent increase in pricing for townhomes throughout brownstone Brooklyn, with the price for one now averaging $2.38 million.
Although New York doesn’t have as many architectural craftspeople as it did in the early 1900s, artisans, who are experts in preservation, still practice their trades all around us. They’re responsible for keeping all of New York’s historic real estate looking new — and can even make some of the new structures look old.
The growing popularity of restoration stemmed from the formation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 1965. The commission began designating neighborhoods historic districts at the same time New Yorkers started gentrifying neighborhoods with gorgeous older townhouses, like Park Slope and Harlem.
As the value of such homes rose, demand for architectural craftspeople increased. Their meticulous services allow homeowners to adhere to the LPC’s stringent requirements for renovations. They also satisfy the growing number of old house lovers who want to spruce up their pieces of city history.
“It is a big part of New York’s economy now,” says Jackie Peu-Duvallon, a historic preservation consultant who runs her own firm. “It’s proliferated in the last 20 or so years.”
Business is good, for example, at EverGreene Architectural Arts founded in 1978. The Brooklyn-based studio has worked on high-profile restoration projects, from the ornate Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library to various historic lobbies around the city.
“We’ve seen an increase in good stewardship, and a greater awareness from real estate [owners], about really caring for what’s special in their buildings,” says Kim Lovejoy, vice president at EverGreene.
At the Sherry Netherland, an Upper East Side co-op/hotel combo where available apartments range from $675,000 for a studio to $13.5 million for a full-floor pad, EverGreene was tasked to restore the lobby. Underneath a white ceiling, the firm discovered an Italian Renaissance-style mural painted in the 1920s. Their team spent six months removing layers, restoring the artwork underneath to its original splendor.
Although EverGreene is a larger firm, most New York craftspeople operate independently. Vincent Battiloro, of The Finest Brownstone Wood Restoration, learned his trade as a teen in Italy. He moved to New York in 1960 — a time when preservation was less popular — and picked…