Road Trip: An Orphaned Wall

by Don Friedman on October 16, 2017

Seen on the street in Ottawa…

I’ve mentioned orphans walls once before. They are what’s left when old walls are incorporated into new buildings in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible to demolish the wall when the original building is demolished.

In this case, the light-red wall with white trim obviously belonged to a building that used to be on the lot in the right half of this photo. Judging by the architectural style, that building was probably built between 1890 and 1920. The brown brick building on the left was built later, probably in the 20s or 30s. You can see that the brown brick extends over the red brick, suggesting that the red brick may have built as a party wall, straddling the property line. I’m reasonably certain that the red brick wall is acting as the enclosure wall for the lower stories of the brown building.

Then the red brick building was demolished, but this wall had to stay, or else the interior of the brown building would become exposed to the outside world. The modern glass and tan-brick building was constructed adjacent to the red brick wall but not using as part of the new building. And, there we go!, we have an orphan wall.

It looks strange (most orphaned walls are hidden from view by the front facades) and it’s an unfortunate situation, but there’s little that can be done about it. As I described in my previous blog post, the problems come when these walls are not connected to the newer buildings and therefore are inadequately braced.

Better Than The Alternative, If You Squint

September 21, 2017

Richard and Anne Dickey, a wealthy couple of the era, had a house constructed for them in 1809-1810 on then-fashionable Greenwich Street. This was before rowhouses were being built in New York and long before the craze among the wealthy for ridiculously large mansions. Their house was about 40 feet by 60 feet and there […]

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All Gone But Remembered

September 5, 2017

A good and needed piece at The Conversation on demolished buildings. The amount I know about the buildings mentioned varies; I’m by far the most familiar with the old Waldorf Astoria, even though it was torn down before my mother was born. My research into the structure of early tall buildings led me to that […]

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Incredibly Neat

July 9, 2017

That picture is from a site where one panel of the slab has been removed. The right-to-left brown strip is a steel beam exposed by the slab removal; the gray above the brown is the next panel of slab over, intact; and the gray below is a dirty piece of plywood that kept the demo […]

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May 15, 2017

These photographs of the demolition of the Orange County Government Center designed by Paul Rudolph are heartbreaking even if brutalism isn’t your favorite style. It was an uncompromising expression of a never-popular style and, because it required non-standard detailing and repairs, it was not well maintained and had severe problems with leaks. Ultimately, there was a […]

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Unused But Fascinating

April 18, 2017

The abandoned Worth Street Station on the Lexington Avenue subway, from 3am.nightly: There are a surprising number of web pages devoted to abandoned subway stations in New York. The stations are mostly visible if you know where to look as your train runs by them without stopping. Most are on the IRT subway lines (the […]

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They Are Long Gone And I Hate Them Anyway

March 24, 2017

That is a picture of a condition exposed during demolition. If the people responsible for that condition were in the room when i first saw it, I’d be gulping down ice cream to sooth a throat made raw by screaming at the top of my lungs “What is wrong with you people?” In short, this […]

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Lost Twice

March 9, 2017

Here’s a good article on last fall’s demolition of Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As it happens, I looked at a few of the houses about ten years ago, for a preservation plan that (obviously) never got off the ground. At that time the houses were damaged but potentially salvageable; I suspect that the additional […]

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A Bit Bloated

November 7, 2016

That picture was taken during interior-finish demolition in the penthouse of an old skeleton-frame building. Like many buildings of this type, the only setbacks are at the penthouse level, so the penthouse columns are only one-story high and are quite small. In this case, the column section consists of two angles kitty-corner to one another. […]

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September 28, 2016

The white stripes show the gaps between the now-removed lath: Structural engineering is about structure, right? A while ago, while looking at a historic house upstate, we ran into a problem. The building had wood-stud bearing walls sheathed with clapboard and we ran into an obvious problem: the bearing walls were not performing properly. The studs were buckling, […]

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