6. P.S. 109 | El Barrio’s Art Space

Public School 109, by today’s standards, is a uniquely ornate elementary school. Standing five stories tall in the El Barrio neighborhood of East Harlem, PS109’s architectural flourishes include several copper-clad cupolas, a steeply pitched roof, and decorative terra-cotta ornaments. The school was designed by local architect and Superintendent of School Buildings at the time, C.B.J. Snyder and completed in 1900. By 1995 the building was boarded up and most of the facade’s decorative terra-cotta was missing. The demolition process had already begun but due to the efforts of The Landmarks Conservancy and neighborhood groups, the building was saved from the wrecking ball in 2000. That same year, PS109 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After being saved, the 114,000 square foot space was converted into an arts facility with 89 units of affordable live-work housing for artists and their families, and non-residential space for galleries and arts organizations. The restoration of the terracotta flourishes was included in the $52 million adaptive reuse project led by Artspace and El Barrio’s Operation Fightback and designed by Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects and Victor Morales Architects. ArtspacePS109 hosts many events which can be found on their Facebook page.