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Windows

July 6, 2010
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A note on the windows that almost removed Tom’s fingers.  The cool thing for us archi-geeks is that they are UL labeled steel fire windows. Yes, we are dorks. The windows are enormous, that goes without saying I suppose, but they are also built for the ages, like much of the building. Either that, or they thought the phone company might be under siege at some point. Buildings just don’t get built like this anymore.

Here are some stats and some stories:

  • 9 ft tall by 4 1/2 feet wide, typically
  • 56 of them on the first and second floors, there are small boarded up windows in the basement, that bring the total window count to 62
  • Galvanized steel, painted black inside and out but at some point a few were painted bright orange inside in the Red Room. We’ve been experimenting with strippers, which has been going very well. We are thinking of leaving the galvanized finished exposed inside and repainting the black on the outside.
  • Original glazing is wire glass but many panes have been replaced with clear glass or plexi panels. We are intending to replace the broken pieces and plexi with clear glass. The previous owner was fond of the plexi. The neighborhood kids have been throwing balls, bottles, black walnuts, etc. at the building for years, so I can understand the response. We’ve been talking with the kids when we see them, suggesting they take their sport elsewhere.
  • Many panes have indication of bullet holes, but that was from a LONG time ago, Mom. Really.
  • The printing company’s sticker obsessed employees had a particular fondness for the stickering up the window glass. We spend our odd free moments with razor blades, removing them. That isn’t a historic feature we want to preserve. The stickers annoy the crap out of me, actually, but I’ll save that rant for another time.
  • 1 1/2 inch thick marble slab window sills, looks like the light gray Carthage marble seen in just about every mid-west institutional building. They are very dirty, but clean up pretty easily. These will be much more dog toenail resistant than the wood sills at our old place.
  • Made by Voigtmann & Co. of Chicago, which was known for their fire windows. They were founded in 1897 and were located at 42 East Erie Street in Chicago. Their claim to fame was a fusible link on their sashes that would cause a window to automatically close during a fire. That technology doesn’t applies to our windows, ours are the ‘box type’ (see images below), but they are definitely fire rated. We found some interesting history about the company on-line. There are Voigtmann ‘fire-proof’ windows on the Tiffany Building in New York City. It makes me happy to think we have the same windows as Tiffany’s.
  • Double hung, like a typical older residential wood window, top and bottom sashes open, which will be great for ventilating the place
  • Several of them operate, but most don’t. We spent some time getting them all fully closed when it turned cold last fall
  • The first floor has a woven wire security grille on the lower sash, outside, that has a cool locking, hinged operating system
  • We intend to repair them, starting with the Red Room. The first one removed is the tester for us to figure out how best to repair them. The plan is to take out the 2 windows that are in the elevator shaft and use them for spare parts. Part of why we chose those windows to be sacrificed is because the upper floor window grille at the elevator became the residence of 2 fat squirrels over the winter. They built a cozy nest between the grille and the window and got the benefit of our heat being sucked thru the steel windows. Most folks are aware that Lucy becomes uncontrollable around squirrels. If she ever noticed that nest when the elevator was down at the dock level, she could have experience a Wile E. Coyote moment. We always keep the elevator in the up position to keep that from happening. Long term, though, the windows aren’t really needed in an elevator shaft and are more of a problem.
  • Storms and screens. Some of the windows have screens but they all need to be repaired. We might end up building new ones as we go. They are pretty simple frames. We have been noodling on how to add interior storms since we got the place. We want something that we can install from the inside and we can fairly easily remove or open for those nice days were we’d want the windows open. The size is the biggest hurdle. Anything we’ve come up with is really heavy. Plus, with the mezzanine going in front of two windows, it is a complicated puzzle. Maybe we should have a contest for ideas…
  • Window treatments. This was one of my first freak-outs about buying the place. Of all the things to worry about with this project, I have no idea why curtains would be a primary concern. I’m such a girl. Call it my deck-chair-rearrangement moment. So, even though we have many more things to think about, I have been spending brain capacity thinking about the window treatments. Now that we are planning to live on the first floor, we do need some privacy screening as well as something to keep the street lights and head lights blocked. It would also be great to find something heavy enough to provide a little bit of thermal insulation. I’ve investigated purchasing thermal drapes but haven’t seen ready-made that are large enough. I’ll probably end up making something, but we will investigate Ikea options, too. Aside from the practical concerns, whatever we chose will have a major impact on the design of the space, and be an opportunity to add some color and texture.

Who would have thought there would be so much to write about the windows.

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