Location: New York, NY
In 2007, Aurora Lampworks, Inc. was contracted by The Eldridge Street Project to work on the historic lighting fixtures. The scope of that work can be broken into two parts: The restoration and conservation of the original historic fixtures that were originally gas fired AND The replication of some of additional fixtures needed to complete the project.
Each of these provided their own challenges. Restoration / Conservation:
Most of the original fixtures except the crystal chandelier in the balcony were originally gas burning. Between the various fixture types including the 75 light Grand Chandelier, there were approximately 237 gas burners in the space. Even though this still would have provided a very low light level by today's standards, it was a lot of combustion in a closed space. When natural gas burns, the by products of combustion readily attack metals - particularly brass. They also leave a film on glass that is very difficult to remove. In addition to the aggressive chemical reaction, the fixtures had been exposed to water for years due to leaks in the roof. Consequently, the fixtures were badly corroded and almost disintegrated in some cases. Removing the corrosion while not causing further damage in the process while reusing as many pieces as possible proved challenging.
A number of fixtures that had gone missing over the years were needed to complete the project. Fortunately, there was one of the original 'crown and basket' fixtures to study and to make patterns from. However even with the help of an original, the process proved to be so 'old world' that it defied modern day techniques. After numerous consultations and collaborations with every technology available to manufacturing in the 21St century, it became clear that there was only one way to make these delicate fixtures - the old way. A world renown expert in the field of chasing and repousse was called in to shed light on how to make the delicate piercings and embossed patterns on the metal baskets. The replication of the fixtures has been an exciting and rewarding learning curve.
The Eternal Light, was replicated as well but this time there was no original to work off. By studying old photographs, the original look and dimensions were determined and mocked up for review by the Project. Once the proportions were approved, the Griffin Head was carved first in clay and then cast in bronze. It was decided that the original basket from the one and only original 'crown and basket' fixture would be used as part of the eternal light.
Additional glass shades that adorn most of the lighting fixtures had to be made. Fortunately, the original manufacturer in France was found was able to recreate the shape, color, and delicate etching pattern.
Interview with Aurora Lampworks' owner, Dawn Ladd
Urban Virtues story in Metropolis