The building that is now known as Bushwick Leaders High School (BLHS) has maintained a significant presence on Bushwick Avenue for many decades. This structure was constructed in 1860 and began its life as a “Home for the Aged” administered by the Little Sisters of the Poor, and would serve the elderly until being sold to the New York City Department of Education in 1971.
Much like the city of New York, the building grew in a series of additions over the decades. At present the school stands at three stories, plus an attic and basement totals approximately 89,000 square feet. Parts of the building constructed before 1930 consist of masonry bearing walls with a wooden inner structure. Later additions included steel and concrete structures. Brick corbelling and a bracketed cornice, common throughout the building, provided a restrained Victorian ornament. The dormers, clock tower cupola, and various additions give the building a picturesque quality. At the rear, the combination gymnasium and cafeteria is housed in the former chapel, which retains the appearance of cathedral apse and recalls the structure’s religious beginnings.
After 140 years of use, with only provisional repairs, extensive damage needed to be addressed. The existing wooden cornices suffered from decay, cracked and spalled masonry could be found throughout, and water flooded the basement. Investigations revealed that the existing brick wall assembly suffered from a combination of deteriorated back up masonry, voids of varying sizes, and corroded steel elements.
At the main building, the existing face brick could not be removed due to existing loads so a new wythe of brick was added to the main building as over-cladding solution. The wooden cornice was replaced with a glass-fiber reinforced concrete cornice to match the existing profile and housed a built-in custom copper gutter.
The 17 additions that comprise this building represent numerous eras and different technologies, resulting in many unique roof conditions and challenging intersections which required unique detailing in order to merge the modern-day Kemper roofs seamlessly and unobtrusively with the historic slate and copper.
In addition an extensive system of retention tanks was installed on site to manage stormwater and the campus landscaping reinvigorated.