Central Park Police Precinct, the Stable Complex
The restoration of Central Park Police Precinct is being honored this month by the New York Landmarks Conservancy with a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award. This is the story of how a mid-19th century Victorian horse stable, designed by the architects of Central Park, was adapted to serve the needs of a technologically modern police precinct. It would not have happened without the enlightened support of NYC's Department of Design and Construction and the Police Department, whose CP Precinct is now happily ensconced inside a new two story glass atrium enveloping part of the original building as though it were a precious museum object--and it is. The design team of Karlsberger Architecture (Fred Basch, Fred Basch Architect, PLLC), Building Conservation Associates, Inc., and Robert Silman Associates, is especially proud of the restoration's harmonious balance between new functions and historic features. The respectful intersection of old and new does not detract from the historic character of the buildings, because it can still be experienced in its entirety. This modern intervention assures active, respectful stewardship, and illustrates how preservation is relevant in today’s world.
The Central Park Police Precinct, a National and New York City landmark located on the site of the original Central Park stable complex, has been home to the New York City Police Department since 1936. Designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, and erected between 1869 and 1871, the stable complex was intended by park designers Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux to form part of the Greensward Plan’s park administration complex. Mould designed the complex below the main park level, so that it would not interrupt the park vistas designed by Olmstead, sinking the architecture below the level of the old Croton Reservoir retaining wall along the deep-set transverse road to ensure an unobtrusive siting in what was to be a peaceful bucolic environment. The precinct complex is composed of the same configuration of buildings as it was originally designed with a stable, open sheds, and Keeper's house enclosing an open courtyard.
Changes Over Time
The stable and open sheds were built in 1871, and the adjacent Keeper's House one year later. By 1915, after over 40 years as a stable, the complex was electrified, the open sheds were enclosed with wood-panel walls, and the east end of the shed buildings were converted into a garage. By 1936, further use as a garage resulted in the loss of the horse stalls and most of the interior stable furnishings. Modifications for the police precinct in 1936 resulted in major reconstruction on the south and east walls of the stable facing the courtyard and the complete enclosure of the open sheds with brick walls to create a firing range. In 1958, a fire destroyed most of the interior and roofs at the east end of the complex, which soon after was rebuilt to match the original architecture.
|The courtyard, originally intended for moving and organizing horses and carts, had fallen into disuse as a dumping ground for confiscated vehicles and other debris.|
|No longer an impromptu parking lot and repo yard, this courtyard was restored and once again serves as the organizing principal for the complex.|
|All station house functions now center on the new lobby and main desk, which occupy the newly enclosed courtyard space.|
|The brownstone, light yellow sandstone, schist, brickwork, bluestone, encaustic tile, sheet copper flashing, and slate roofing contribute to the picturesque appearance of this Greensward development.|
|The conservation of the existing fabric included decorative the slate and copper roof elements, conservation of the remaining historic barn-loft doors, hayloft hooks, and decorative Minton tile.|
|The addition of a low-scale lightweight glass-and-copper canopy over a portion of the existing open courtyard allows the complex to function in harmony with its original design intent.|
|The structural glass wall and the bullet-resistant windows and doors protect the occupants while creating a welcoming appearance for the public and allow visitors to fully appreciate the restored façade of the old stable.|