Brick of the Week: laying it down, one at a time.
Brick of the Week, 3 August 2012
Manufacturer of Record/Foundry: Unknown
Method of Manufacture: Extruded
Age (Approximate): ca. 1912, ca. 1987
Dimensions: 8″ x 2.5″ x 3.75″ (1912), 7.75″ x 2.25″ x 3.5″ (1987)
Location: 970 Park Avenue, New York, NY (GMAP)
The Story: Dubbed “Flemish Bond,” presumably because of its prevalence in buildings of the Low Countries in the seventeenth century (when the pattern first grew popular in England), this brick bond is most commonly found in buildings of the British colonial, American Federal (Georgian), and Federal Revival (NeoGeorgian) epochs. Revitalized and arguably overdone in the American post-centennial era, Flemish bond came to symbolize wealth, dignity, and the founding principles of the United States. Thanks to its prevalence in civic architecture at a peak period of immigration, it is often associated with middle-class attempts to “Americanize” a booming foreign-born populace.
The pattern of alternating headers (short end) and stretchers (long end) makes Flemish bond one of the most decorative; it stands among the most expensive methods of bricklaying. Walls laid in Flemish bond are typically eight or more inches thick. Visually similar to a checkerboard pattern, Flemish bond may include vitrified or unglazed headers. A rare variation on Flemish bond is called “Monk bond.”
These bricks, shown on the primary facade of 970 Park Avenue, represent phases of construction and rehabilitation: original masonry (above left, 1912) and replacement bricks (above right, 1987). Laid during a major renovation, the new bricks were probably added to remedy substantial damage to the building’s northeast corner (likely caused by water infiltration). Hint: one can deduce the bricks’ ages by observing the amount of surface fly ash (dirt) on the masonry and noting the difference in mortar composition: large aggregate flecks (older, degraded) vs. smooth (newer, cleaner).