A look at the interior of an historic silk manufacturing building conversion to affordable apartments.
AN EXISTING BUILDING
This factory building was constructed in the 1890s for the processing of silk. At the time, these floor plates and structural bays were considered large, but they no longer meet modern manufacturing requirements. The building has seen smaller manufacturing owners and tenants, but most recently it has been relegated to storage use. Its location in a mixed residential and manufacturing area makes it ideal for conversion to apartments, for those working in the neighborhood, in the downtown corridor close by or a bus-ride away.
The structure is heavy timber frame with masonry walls. Monumental windows are wood. Steel elements are still found on and in the building:
- large steel doors used as fire doors to divide the main space from the neighboring building – once part of the complex – and to close off a loading dock addition
- a steel hoist graces the South end of the building
- a hoistway with an early freight elevator connects the upper two floors and basement
- turbine vents on the annex building are no longer functional
On the interior, finishes are sparse but mostly intact:
- diagonal hardwood boards are found throughout the second floor and in a small portion of the first floor
- masonry exterior walls are double-withe and are exposed on the interior
- ceiling boards and other added wooden support pieces are painted white
A NEW USE
We found that the regular rhythm of columns created good proportions for bedrooms and living spaces at the exterior walls, and located bathrooms and open kitchens on the interior. In spaces with little or no natural light, we created the amenity spaces – a study room, a gym and common room with borrowed light from the entrance hallway.
In order to keep the historic finish of the exterior walls and due to the fact that most windows are beyond repair or have been replaced with non-historic windows, we are replacing the very large windows with high-efficiency metal-clad wood windows and leaving the interior of the exterior walls exposed.
Naturally lit, high-ceiling apartments will have exposed brick walls, hardwood floors and painted wood ceilings. An historic building has escaped demolition and is finding new life with local residents who will enjoy living close to work.