Craft-brewed building: A Red Oak construction crew member works on the hinge of a custom door made from wood salvaged from the demolition of the parish house’s interior. The door will lead from this home’s finished basement rec room to the mechanical room. | Photos: Sandy Smith
“God is in the details.” —Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
God, then, continues to make his presence felt throughout the building that began life in 1912 as the parish house for the Episcopal Church of Emmanuel and the Good Shepherd in East Kensington, for Red Oak Development, which is converting the building into five three-story townhouses with finished basements, is loading these new homes with fine architectural details — most of them salvaged from the building itself.
Each of the five homes being inserted into the former parish house have a design sensibility best described as “traditional rustic contemporary.” Make that “traditional recycled contemporary.” The original stone and brick walls of the parish house have been left exposed wherever possible. Wood reclaimed from the gutting of the building has returned as walls and trim. The bathroom vanities were fabricated from the slate counters of the parish house’s bathrooms. And one of the homes has a bedroom whose inner wall is the former outer wall of the building; it will have a sliding door and interior window whose panes come from ribbed glass used in some of the parish house’s windows.
This is all in keeping with Red Oak’s approach to construction and design. “We rarely build anything vanilla or cookie-cutter,” said Red Oak co-founder and partner Anthony Giacobbe. He and Ken Schapiro formed the company in November 2015 to build on their strengths — “he’s nails and I’m numbers,” said Giacobbe — and jointly pursue their passion for finely crafted buildings.
Red Oak had hoped to do much the same thing with the church next door, but the building turned out to have structural problems serious enough to make salvaging it cost-prohibitive. So the company split the lot in two. Another developer is building seven new townhomes called Bishop Square on the site of the church. Toner Architects designed the five units in this development.
Schapiro custom-fabricated many of the items used in these homes on site and brought in local artists to work on other elements. The pictures below should give you an idea of what’s going into these homes and what you will get out of them.
The Somers Team at RE/MAX Access, which is marketing Bishop Square, is also marketing the Parish House. The homes will hit the market in mid-April. This is an exclusive first look at the soon-to-be-finished product.
Work in Progress at The Parish House
The Parish House at Firth and Collins streets in East Kensington.
The cornerstone and original entrance to the parish house. This will be the entrance to the corner unit at 2126 E. Firth St.
The Collins Street elevation. The two-story parish house has had a third story added on top. Four of the five units, but not this one, will have roof decks.
A construction crew prepares the bottom of the wall on Collins Street for waterproofing.
Left to right: Stephanie Somers of The Somers Team and Anthony Giacobbe and Ken Schapira of Red Oak Development in the living room of the nearly completed end unit at 2134 E. Firth St.
The living/dining area of 2134 E. Firth. The stairs are made from reclaimed wood from the parish house demolition.
The kitchen at 2134 E. Firth. The poured concrete kitchen countertops contribute to the home's industrial-chic ambience...
...as does the reclaimed-wood enclosure for the refrigerator and storage.
All custom fabrication is performed on site. This door is also made from reclaimed wood.
The door will cover this opening to the basement mechanical room.
The mechanical room interior.
This original flooring will have gaps filled in before it is refinished.
The stairway connecting the basement, first and second floors is the centerpiece of a large light well that offers a glimpse of the upstairs.
Brick and stone walls have been left exposed throughout the project.
The second-floor hallway and bathroom.
The stairs from the second floor to the third floor.
The view down the light well from the second floor.
The second-floor front bedroom. Both of the bedrooms on this floor have two large closets with double doors.
The closet doors are new but designed to complement the building's original woodwork and wainscoting.
The hall bathroom on the second floor.
The countertop for the hall bathroom vanity was carved from the original slate counters in the parish house bathrooms.
The interior wall of the rear bedroom was the original exterior wall of the building. A newly fabricated window and sliding door provide access and light for the hall.
Schapira holds a pane of ribbed glass salvaged during demolition in one of the window panes.
The second-floor rear bedroom closet.
The exposed brick (former) exterior wall in the rear bedroom.
The third-floor master suite.
The master bathroom.
The master bathroom tub and shower enclosure.
A closeup of the shower enclosure.
A view of the roof deck from the master bedroom.
Somers pointed out that the original stone cross over the former rear entrance to the parish house made a distinctive decoration for this deck.
The master bedroom in this unit is wired for a large-screen TV.
The granite exterior walls have been repointed and treated with a special waterproofing compound.
The trench being dug along the Collins Street wall will allow for waterproofing to be applied here. When that's completed and the trench filled in again, this will become the side yard of 2126 E. Firth St.
The original parish house stairs have been preserved as the entrance to 2126.
New doors complement the original stair railings.
The powder room on the first floor.
The main living area on the first floor of 2126.
The rear wall of the main living area, made of reclaimed wood, is open to the stairwell behind it.
A friendly reminder to the construction workers from Schapira: "Someone leaves their cranberry juice there, and we get stains on the counters."
The view of the main living area from the stairwell.
Another view of the main floor from the stairway.
An original Gothic window opening and original wainscoting combine with the exposed stone for a whiff of the medieval.
Stair railings from the rear stairs were reused on the new stairs from the second to the third floor.
The cast-iron water pipes are being left exposed to contribute a touch of the industrial to the stairwell.
The middle bedroom on the second floor.
The doorway to the bathroom this bedroom shares with the bedroom in front.
The wainscoting in this bathroom is new but built to match the original.
The tile floor in the bathroom.
The bathroom tub enclosure.
The vanity is being fabricated in the front bedroom.
The second-floor front bedroom closet.
The entrance to the third-floor master suite.
In addition to the large windows, a skylight will fill the master bedroom with light.
Some original elements are being left in place but not used for their original purpose, like this window in the basement stairway.
One original object that could be repurposed is behind this door beneath the basement stairs...
...the parish house's safe.
It's no longer suitable for storing valuables, but it does offer a quirky and unique storage solution.
The basement rec room of 2126.
The mechanical closet is beneath the foyer, off the rec room.
While the two end units are unique, the three middle units will be similar in layout and design. The middle unit at 2130, however, will have a partly sunken open entrance that leads up to the high-ceilinged main floor.
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