New York City’s Tavern on the Green in Central Park is one of the city’s most recognized restaurants. Originally built in 1871 as a sheepfold, the Victorian Gothic structure underwent a number of alterations over the years in response to changing programmatic needs. In 1934, it was converted into a restaurant, and over the next seven decades, the building continually expanded, adding more interior dining and support spaces. In the mid-1970s, the last major dining area addition was made, the glass and steel-framed Crystal Room. From 1934 to when the restaurant closed in 2009, the original 8,000-square-foot building grew to approximately 31,000 square feet.
In 2010, the city removed the Crystal Room to create a temporary Visitor’s Center in the building’s north wing. The next year, in an attempt to re-establish Tavern on the Green as a true public amenity, the city retained Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, New York City, for a core-and-shell rehabilitation to restore the building envelope and infrastructure for a subsequent interior fit-out by a new restaurant concessionaire.
The12,000-square-foot restoration focused on rebuilding the facility as a restaurant, serving the needs of park visitors and neighborhood residents, rather than the large catering facility it had become. Working with a food services consultant, Swanke determined that by greatly reducing the building’s footprint, the restaurant could be viable and economically successful. By removing years of inappropriate additions and restoring the building footprint back to what the originally conceived restaurant was, Swanke was able to reduce the building’s footprint by more than 50 percent.
Swanke Hayden Connell’s Director of Historic Preservation, Elizabeth Moss, emphasized that the main goal of the project was to restore as much of the 1934 historic structure as possible, while meeting demands of modern restaurant needs. “By reducing the building footprint through the demolition of poorly maintained non-historic additions, we were able to restore the historic structure and courtyard, as well as reestablish the building’s historic relationship to Central Park.” Wherever possible, historic drawings and photographs were used as the basis of design.
All elevations previously hidden by additions were carefully uncovered and restored, along with the semi-circular cocktail lounge added onto the building’s north side in 1947. The building’s deteriorated slate and copper roofs were replaced by all new matching roofs, with all exterior masonry restored with matching materials. Existing infill from the 1940s was removed from the courtyard, allowing the historic wings to be extended back to their original configuration with the replacement of missing doors and dormers. All fenestration was removed and replaced with energy-efficient and period-appropriate wood windows and doors.
Keeping the original ornamental sheet metal details the same was key to the project. Since the lead-coated copper cupola and underlying wood framing was too deteriorated to restore, Hudson Valley Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., New Windsor, N.Y., and Tri-State Metals LLC, Elmsford, N.Y., prepared an accurate replication that required 160 hours in the shop and 60 hours of field fabrication. Hudson Valley and Tri-State also replicated the radius standing seam roof and ventilator at the restored 1947 north bar addition.
Tri-State Metals also fabricated the lead-coated copper, refurbished the large steel finial by straightening it out, sandblasting it and giving it a new black powder-coated finish. CopperCraft by Fabral, Grapevine, Texas, fabricated the small red copper cupola and the wall red copper louvers. Tri-State also utilized 16-oz cold-rolled copper gutter for the built-in gutters, along with 20-ounce cold-rolled copper for the flashings, ridge caps, standing seam roof, louvers and ventilators. Lancaster, Pa.-based Fabral supplied the copper sheets. The project also features 1,220 snow guards from Berger Building Products, Feasterville, Pa.
The famed restaurant will reopen in December, and in compliance with New York City Local Law 86, is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.
Tavern on the Green Rehabilitation, Central Park, New York City
Owners: NYC Department of Design & Construction, Long Island City, N.Y.; Central Park Conservancy, New York City; and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, New York City
Architect: Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, New York City
Civil engineering: Philip Habib & Associates, New York City
MEP engineering: Excel Group, Albany, N.Y.
General contractor: Atlas Restoration Corp., Astoria, N.Y.
Structural engineering: LPE Engineering, New York City
Point-supported glass addition: APG International, Enclosure Specialist, Glassboro, N.J.
Roofing contractor: Hudson Valley Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., New Windsor, N.Y.
Metal fabricator/distributor: Tri-State Metals LLC, Elmsford, N.Y.
Liquid-applied roofing system: Kemper System, West Seneca, N.Y.
Copper: Fabral, Lancaster, Pa., www.fabral.com
Red copper cupola/louvers: Copper Craft by Fabral, Grapevine, Texas, www.coppercraft.com
Snow guards: Berger Building Products, Feasterville, Pa., www.bergerbp.com