2016 Evelyn & Everett Ortner Preservation Awards

At its February meeting, the Park Slope Civic Council announced the two recipients of the 2016 Evelyn and Everett Ortner Preservation Awards. The first was a block association that protected the appearance of their neighborhood by opposing the proposed design and scale of the conversion of the Pavilion Theater into a luxury condominium apartment building. The other award was presented to the owners and the architect responsible for restoring and rehabilitating the finest example of residential Romanesque Revival Architecture in New York City.

  1. to encourage building owners, architects, developers and contractors to engage in renovations, rehabilitations and expansions of existing buildings and to erect new buildings that are compatible with Park Slope’s original architecture; and
  2. to motivate individuals and groups to initiate interventions aimed at protecting the appearance of our historic neighborhood; and
  3. to increase community awareness of the importance of preserving the architectural character of Park Slope.

The Ortner Awards are sponsored by Tarzian Hardware.

Clem Labine, the juror foreperson, reminisced that when he bought his home almost a half century ago, brownstones could have been purchased for as little as $10,000 because Park Slope was far from a desirable place to live. Crime was rampant, people were fleeing the neighborhood and houses were being abandoned. The awards were named to honor a couple who, to counter these trends, led an effort to preserve the neighborhood. They launched a campaign to encourage people to purchase and renovate homes in Park Slope. The couple also played leading roles in the creation of the Park Slope Historic District. Had it not been for their efforts, Park Slope would not be the community that it is today. Thanks to the subsequent efforts of Peter Bray and other members of the PSCC who piggybacked on their work, the Park Slope Historic District has become largest landmarked neighborhood in New York City. The two buildings recognized by this year’s awards are located in the Historic District.

John Casson, the awards administrator, introduced the jurors for the 2016 Ortner Preservation Awards and thanked them for making the program a success. They were Ingrid Abramovitch, architectural writer; Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director, Historic District Council; Bob Braun, architect: Clem Labine, juror foreperson and founder of the Old House Journal, Traditional Building & Period Homes; Laurie Lieberman, architect; Jean Miele, photographer/educator.

Judith Lief, President of the Park Slope Civic Council presented the Neighborhood Intervention Award to the Fourteenth Street Block Association for initiating what became a community-wide effort to protect the appearance of an important gateway to Park Slope and Prospect Park. In the summer of 2015, the Association’s members were surprised to learn that a real estate developer was planning to convert the Pavilion Theater, the largest building on their block and an adjoining empty single-story structure on Bartel Pritchard Circle into a large luxury condominium apartment building with underground parking and several retail stores.

Photo by Audrey Mazur

After viewing renderings of the proposal, the 14 th Street Block Association concluded that the developer was proposing “a thrown together building with little architectural cohesion and a problematic contextual relationship to the historic buildings that surround it.” By drawing attention to the fact that this eyesore would mar the appearance of Bartel Pritchard Circle, one of the major portals to Prospect Park, the block association was able to marshal widespread opposition to the plan. Members of the block association and Trustees of the PSCC submitted constructive proposals to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for reducing the size and improving the design of the project. Responding to intense community pressure, the LPC took these proposals into account and instructed the developer to revamp the project so that it would be more compatible with the appearance and scale of neighboring historic structures. Had it not been for the intervention of the Fourteenth Street Block Association, it is likely that the developer would have obtained approval to implement its original plan with only a few minor modifications.

Photo by John Casson

Recently, the developer abandoned his project and the theater was leased to Nitehawk Cinema. Casson noted that we have no idea what changes will be proposed for the exterior of the new theater and what will replace the vacant building facing Bartel Prichard Circle. Nonetheless, we are confident that the members of the Fourteenth Street Block Association will continue to be at the forefront of any effort to protect the appearance of this integral part of their block and the circle that Olmstead and Vaux designed to be a main entryway to Prospect Park.

Judith Lief presented the award for the exterior restoration of one of Park Slope’s important historic structures to Tina and John Novogratz, the owners, and Christa O’Malley Horrigan, the architect involved in the renovation of what is now called the Chiclet Mansion.

Photo by John Casson

Tina Novogratz said that at the end of a frustrating day of house hunting, she and her husband saw someone posting a large “FOR SALE” sign in front of a large vacant building on the northeast corner of Eighth Avenue and Carol Street. A century and a half of rain, sleet, snow and neglect had taken a harsh toll on its ornate sandstone, terra cotta, brick and brownstone façade. The mansion had been designed by C.P.H. Gilbert to be a two family home for Thomas Adams and his son. Adams was the inventor of Chiclet Chewing Gum and the coin operated automatic gum dispenser.

Photo by John Casson

The couple selected Horrigan O’Malley Architects to preside over the extensive renovation of this historic building. This included replacing the roof and more than 70 windows, repointing the façade, repairing and replacing many interior and exterior architectural elements and the restoration of its stained glass windows. The result is evidence why the Chiclet Mansion is considered to be the finest example of residential Romanesque Revival Architecture in New York City.

Applications will soon be accepted for the 2017 Ortner Preservation Awards. Details about the awards can be found on the PSCC website. Please email ortnerpreservationawards@gmail.com if you know of any building or intervention in Park Slope that you think might be worthy of an award.