Seeing What’s There

by Don Friedman on April 11, 2016

A while back, I was doing some research that included the big building in the picture below.

For the research project, I needed to know if this building, constructed in the 1890s, had a skeleton frame, bearing walls, or one of the hybrids that existed during the early years of skeleton framing. I hadn’t been able to find any document-based proof one way or another, so I thought I’d look at the building in person.

It has two street facades – a wider-than-usual side street to the left, and an avenue on the side away from the camera. The side facing the camera is a lot-line wall and, as such, lacks ornament. I’m guessing that the white area is where advertisements have been painted in the past, with the white being the topmost coat of paint blanking out the last ad below. As soon as I saw this face of the building, I knew the answer to my question. The dark stripes through the white are replacement brick and the stripe spacing and location perfectly match where I’d expect the columns and beams to be in a skeleton frame. This kind of brick replacement is common during facade-repair projects: we find cracks or bulges in the brick where rust-jacking has resulted from steel damage, and the brick removal to remove the rust and waterproof the steel means we end up with strips of new brick.

So many times, the answers are physically present in the building if we are patient enough to look around and find them.

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