After demolition!

The contractor’s 3-man crew jumped right in, starting their demolition in the kitchen, where plans called for knocking down most of the wall which separates the kitchen from the adjacent maid’s room.  The kitchen is narrow, almost galley-like, and expanding it to include the maid’s room will definitely give it (and me) more breathing room.  It will have now two north-facing windows with open city views, and even a glimpse of the Hudson and the GW Bridge at certain strategic angles.

The primary piece of furniture in the breakfast room will be a lovely oak, drop-leaf table, c. 1870,  that I purchased several months ago from a 2nd hand furniture shop in Hudson, NY.  The table appealed to me for many reasons.  It was in excellent condition, having been owned most recently, and refinished,  by a widowed doctor in Rensselaer County, NY,  according to the eccentric owner of the shop on Warren Street.  At $250, with 6 leaves, it was also a real bargain. However, what I do with the 6 leaves in that little breakfast room remains to be seen.

The concept of a maid’s room is, of course, a throw back to a life style long past.  We get glimpses of it now in segments of Downton Abbey in England but many of New York’s middle-and-upper-middle-class residents lived in these  gracious Manhattan pre-war buildings in prior decades with staff.  My apartment had one maid’s room but some very high end buildings in Manhattan had upwards of 3 and 4.

The plan below is not my apartment but it is one of many I looked at  in the Photographs Collection on the 3rd floor of the Midtown Manhattan Public Library, another recent and extraordinary neighborhood find in my temporary stay in Murray Hill.  They may be hard to see but the 3 small maid’s rooms are to the left of the semi-circular service stair in the back of the apartment; to the right is the butler’s bedroom.

Pre-war floor plan with 3 maid's and 1 butler's room for prewar apartment at 447 East 57th Street

As a new resident of the building, I was exquisitely sensitive to the noise issues of the renovation and several weeks before I had put notes under the doors of neighbors who the contractor thought would be most affected.  The weekend before the demolition I also left little daffodil plants on each of 4 doormats of these most affected neighbors, with notes thanking people for their patience and promising an end to it all by the time the daffodils bloomed in Riverside Park in the spring. The contractor had also asked the super to contact those same neighbors so that one member of  his crew could photograph the adjacent walls and ceilings to document any possible damage.

I received an email from the contractor’s right-hand man at the end of that first day saying all had gone fine and, with the exception of one complaint from a resident on the 8th floor about them making noise at 9:00 am, instead of  9:30 am, the time established by the building after which noisy construction work can begin, the sun set on Day 1.