Queens County Farm Floral Park, New York

26 Jun 17

Completed: April, 2017
Architect: John G. Waite Associations
General Contractor: NSP Enterprises
Engineering: Old Structures Engineering
Building Type: Conservatory
Restoration: Conservatory Craftsmen

Nestled in the heart of New York lies a veritable Garden of Eden. The Queens County Farm has been in use since 1697 and is a striking sight for city dwellers; the functioning centuries-old historical landmark welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year with livestock, three acres of fruit orchards, beehives, a butterfly garden, French vineyard, and the city’s only corn maze.

Recently, the City of New York restored several of the Queens County Farm’s buildings to their original conditions, dating from 1772 to 1934. This overhaul included the property’s greenhouses, three structures that incorporate a number of pull frames and produce a steady stream of vegetable crops, flowers, and seasonal items like pumpkins all year-round.

Conservatory Craftsmen, well-known for handcrafting the finest conservatories using the finest materials in the world, led the restoration project. The architect had specified the use of Accoya wood to restructure and frame the greenhouse roofs, which carry more than 6,000 pounds of glass and are subject to high levels of humidity around the clock. Already familiar with Accoya, Conservatory Craftsmen had used it on several projects in the past, and used it to construct the ceiling rafters at Queens County Farm.

“Accoya originally impressed us with its stability, durability, and flexibility,” said Jim Hewitt, owner of Conservatory Craftsmen. “We often use Accoya as an alternative for mahogany or cedar woods. Its moisture-resistant properties also made it uniquely ideal for this project.”

The historical designation of the Queens County Farm made construction an especially tricky process. In the New York Parks District, a structure that is 50 years old or more must receive strict prior approval to be renovated or replaced. Every material and design choice was rigorously examined by city and state representatives who greenlit plans for reconstruction.

“This farm is very precious to the city of New York,” said Hewitt. “Five to six thousand students a day come to visit it, most of whom have never seen livestock or have any idea where pigs come from. It’s an educational marvel and a fun field trip for kids.”

In addition to replacing the wood framing and salvaging some of the metal, the glass ceilings and windows were falling apart. Therefore, Conservatory Craftsmen created a special glaze that preserved the original construction method but used materials that adhere to modern codes.

“The architect’s original design called for a laminate glass cover over the roof,” said Hewitt. “Due to concerns about its load-bearing capacity, we modified it with a tempered laminate finish made from a Dow chemical. This made the roof more weather resistant and less prone to breakage.”

The restoration of the Queens County Farm greenhouses is underway and expected to be completed April, 2017. The rest of the property grounds are still open daily and community events include compost building, children’s carnival, an egg hunt, and more family fun activities.