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William Lescaze designed townhouse receives Friends of UES 2015 Restoration Award

March 23, 2015

East 70th Street between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue is a museum of architectural styles represented in the grand townhouses along both sides of the street. The Modern movement is brazenly and beautifully represented in the Dorothy Norman House designed by William Lescaze and completed in 1941. Just look for the white glazed-brick façade with glass block window walls, steel frame windows and chrome-yellow door.

DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State is extremely pleased that Friends of the Upper East Side has chosen the Norman house for its prestigious annual award recognizing an outstanding restoration project. The Upper East Side has seven historic districts within its boundaries but Modern movement buildings are not abundant within them. The four-story townhouse was showcased in a 1945 MoMA exhibition of first wave Modern houses in the U.S. That same year Architectural Forum recognized the Norman House as “one of the latest and best” schemes for rethinking the townhouse.

The current owner, Brent Harris, purchased the house in 2000 and has since worked to return the house as close as possible to Lescaze’s 1941 statement. This decade and a half of restoration encompassed a range of challenges: on the exterior, repair of steel windows, including the window walls on the rear elevation, and custom manufacture of blue-white ceramic-faced brick to 1940 specifications; on the interior, redoing complex curve plasterwork, bringing back Lescaze’s 21-color paint palette and restoring the original custom furniture and casework executed in a unique light, white-highlighted oak. And there were many more.

At the awards ceremony held Tuesday March 17 at The Cosmopolitan Club, Barry Bergdoll presented the award and spoke about the Norman House and its significance. The award recognizes Harris, who has guided the restoration project, and key individuals and firms contributing to the project: Prudon & Partners, Galen Lee, L & Z Restoration Corporation, Seekircher Steel Window Corporation and Patriot Restoration, Inc.

Norman House, William Lescaze, 1941. Photo: 2014, K. Randall