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March 27, 2006

Belly of the Beast

2006-03-22 1860 basement coalstove2a.jpg

For the past month, I have been researching the architectural history of a school in Brooklyn. My thesis for the paper asserts that a social history of the school can be read through its architectural changes between 1860, when the original structure was erected, and the present day. Additions and renovations of the school occurred during key points in New York City history�1905/1910, 1934/39, and 1950. The work has been fascinating.

During a tour of the school last week, I was granted access to the basement. This is allegedly the oldest portion of the building, dating back to 1860. Amidst the storage and random rubble inside rose the most gigantic furnace that I have ever seen. Obviously no longer functioning, this coal stove must have served as the belly of the beast during the early 20th century�and perhaps until recently, but I do not have those details yet.

The doors of the furnace read �Plant Installed by E. Rutzler, Co., 127 White St., New York for the Board of Education, City of New York.� Based on the last piece of the inscription, one might assume that it was installed after the incorporation of the five boroughs in 1898. An inscription bearing the name CBJ Snyder (the Board of Education�s Superintendent of School Buildings) places the devise between 1891 and 1923.

I cannot wait to visit again. I am thinking about taking a charcoal rubbing of the furnace door.

Posted by callalillie at March 27, 2006 1:44 AM | History


Oooh, if you do a rubbing use a wax-based crayon or pencil. Charcoal will smear too much. I did rubbings of tombstones in Salem, MA. We needed permission from the Police Department. I remember using large, flat crayons. The rubbings lasted many moons. In fact, we found Nathaniel Hawthorne. Yes, I did use a red crayon for his memorial. Sounds like a fantastic research project.

Posted by: Vickie at March 27, 2006 5:03 PM

ooh, i wonder what's lurking in the basement of my school...it's not as old as the school you're researching though.

Posted by: nani at March 27, 2006 6:21 PM

The patina on the furnace doors is just beautiful! Is it rust or old varnish?

Posted by: mark at March 28, 2006 5:52 AM

There was some cool stuff down there-- old desks and coat racks. I had to control myself so that I didn't ask for everything.

I think that the patina is a combination of just baked on stuff from the heat and some sort of paint (the colors). I wasn't able to get too close. The custodian didn't want me to fall into the large pit dug around it.

Posted by: corie at March 28, 2006 9:30 AM

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