EINY’s 4th and 5th grades classrooms are located at “The Schoolhouse,” 277 Park Avenue South, between 21st and 22nd Streets, around the corner from the main building on E. 22nd St.
The Schoolhouse was designed by James Renwick, Jr., and was built in 1867 to serve as a Sunday School for the Calvary Church next door.
Renwick designed a structure which could hold up a very heavy slate (stone) roof without needing any columns across its 27′ interior width. This large “clear span” makes the interior space more useful and graceful.
Notably, the long clear span was achieved without the need for buttresses extending beyond the exterior walls. At Notre-Dame de Paris, these buttresses are exciting architectural elements in themselves, but they take up considerable space. And this site did not offer the architect that extra space; when the Schoolhouse was constructed, there were already buildings on both sides. Renwick used a “hammer truss” design with “hammer braces” which carry the weight of the roof down to corbels, spaced every 10′ along the side walls. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the highly functional trusses are quite attractive to a modern eye; the trusses are the most notable thing about the interior, and they still look good.
The neighboring structures limited the opportunities to light the space with windows at ground level. Renwick called for 42 clerestory windows circling the building. These windows provide for a pleasing, indirect light.
Nineteen of these windows feature diamond-shaped fleur de lys designs. The Gil Studio restored these windows. To replace broken panes, they made a silkscreen stencil with the same design and then the stencil was used to apply a vitreous paint, made up mostly of iron oxide, finely ground glass and a lead-based flux. The product was fired in a kiln to approximately 1,225 degrees fahrenheit, like a low temperature pottery glaze.
The same method was used to reglaze the windows across the building’s front.
It seems that the original design supplemented the natural light with gas light; one can still see the gas pipes in the brick of each corbel. Presumably, gas lights hung near the end of each (horizontal) hammer beam.
The building’s exterior is Landmarked, as part of the Gramercy Park Historic District.