Cast Iron

Labor Day Weekend 1

by Don Friedman on September 2, 2017


Workers erecting cast-iron columns.

Composite Structure

August 21, 2017

That’s the side wall and an oblique view of the front of a small building on Nassau Street. The front appears to be early twentieth century, but the odds are good that this is an older building that has been modified multiple times. If nothing else, the storefront – visible as sheet metal at the […]

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Sidewalk Vaults and True Obsolescence

August 14, 2017

For people unfamiliar with sidewalk vaults, the illustration above, from 1865, might seem plausible, but it’s actually Daniel Badger’s fantasy of how he could sell more iron. The left-hand side is reasonably accurate for mid-1800s vaults: the facade columns extend down past the plane of the sidewalk, marking the separation of the cellar proper from […]

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Weathering Metals

August 9, 2017

Beautiful, right? Thanks to some old alteration work, we get to see the results of a nice little experiment in exposing metals to water. You’re looking at three beams here: a modern steel beam that had been directly supporting a sidewalk (middle left, outlined in purple below), the original cast-iron girder that supports that beam […]

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Historic Structural Detail: Assembly Required

March 22, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, possibly because my attention has wandered to more fertile fields of criticism. In any case, the picture above is a nice illustration of just how much cast-iron facades were kits to be assembled.¬†(Note that there’s some flash burn on the left side of the […]

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156 Years Of Dirt

March 16, 2017

Whatever that light-gray dust is – some combination of rotted wood, ancient coal smoke, and pigeon crap, most likely – it was damned difficult¬†to wash off my hands and shirt. But that’s not the point. What is this thing? It’s the cast-iron arch holding up the rear wall of an 1861 loft building over the […]

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A Century Passes

March 3, 2017

That’s the west side of Union Square, between 14th and 15th Streets, a little over one hundred years ago. It’s worth the effort to click on it to look at the bigger version. Personally, I love the facade signage. The building on the far left, partially cut off, is 1 Union Square West and it’s […]

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Investigation The Very Easy Way

February 8, 2017

That looks familiar. Where have I seen that before? Oh, yeah: it’s a double-beam seat on a cast-iron column:  

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Historic Structural Detail: Customized

November 30, 2016

Even at its peak of popularity, cast iron was known to have problems. People used it so extensively 130, 140 years ago because it was the strongest material they had and because they could do so much with it, even with its flaws. One of the advantages of cast iron is in its name: casting. […]

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Historic Structural Detail: Chopped

November 1, 2016

We seem to have a sort of automatic reverence for the past, with the assumption that anything old was made well. More specifically, we often assume that jerry-rigging is a modern invention, and that our predecessors were somehow more serious and paid more attention to detail. Yeah, well, the world is contingent and always has […]

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