Restoring the Art Deco Facade for Frederick Law Olmsted High School

Frederick Law Olmsted High School is a local public school in the Kensington neighborhood on Buffalo, NY’s East Side. The building is a public works project designed by Daniel G. McNeil in 1937 during the Great Depression. Along with Buffalo’s City Hall and Central Terminal, it is one of several examples of Art Deco architecture in the area.

Boston Valley Terra Cotta has manufactured replicas of original masonry for the facade at Frederick Law Olmsted High School. Original terra cotta blocks are documented and used as a reference in the factory to create the molds for fabrication. Due to the extensive detail of these units, they have been created using the slip cast and hand press forming methods. The glaze is a dark charcoal grey with a satin finish — it has been carefully selected to match the original treatment of the façade.

The building’s exterior is comprised of a detailed, pictorial frieze beneath each window. The stylized imagery shows students who are actively engaged in learning. Their heads face down to read books by sunlight or a torch held in hand. The people are enclosed, surrounded by books and floral motifs, symbolizing the potential for growth through knowledge. The bottom of the frieze is a geometric pattern, referring back to the stylization of Art Deco is known for.

Below are images of the dry fit mock up in the Boston Valley factory. This procedure is part of our QA/QC process, to ensure correct alignment and consistency among all of the terra cotta blocks. Pieces are then shipped to the onsite location for installation.

Buffalo, NY, Restoration, Architectural Terra Cotta, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Frederick Law Olmsted

A mockup of the terra cotta ornamentation at Frederick Law Olmsted High School at Kensington.

 

Buffalo, NY, Restoration, Architectural Terra Cotta, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Frederick Law Olmsted

Detail of the charcoal grey glaze on the Frederick Law Olmsted High School at Kensinton’s facade.