Hard Hat Tour: The Parish House

When the Red Oak Development team found they couldn’t save a historic East Kensington church, they doubled down on the parish house next door. Here’s an exclusive first look at how they used everything they saved while converting it to townhouses.

Made by hand, not beforehand: 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

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. Developer Eric Fox 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.



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