The Woman’s Club of Albany

Since 2006, Landmark Consulting has been providing technical preservation assistance for the c.1895 masonry building that is home of the Woman’s Club of Albany (WCA). This grand residence on Madison Avenue was built for Joseph Steefel, one of two brothers who owned a prominent clothing store on State Street in downtown Albany. In 1919, the Steefel home was purchased by The Woman’s Club of Albany with donations from the Club’s founder, Mrs. Elmer Blair. The impressive Chicago-style prairie/mission, three-story brick building has an inviting front porch, decorative buff-colored brick and terra cotta facades and red slate and copper roofs. It is attached to its twin building (built for the other Steefel Brother) by a side porte-cochere. Both houses have been listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places since 1972 as part of the Washington Park Historic District.

Although the club has owned the building in 1919, and flourished for many decades, the organization had dwindled to only 3 elderly members by 2003. In 2004, five energetic and idealistic women discovered and joined the WCA, determined to revive the Club as a center of activity benefiting the community. Since this time, the building has also undergone a revitalization as the new and increased membership has been addressing decades of property neglect.

Collaborating with the chair of the Building Committee, the Board of Directors and other volunteer design professionals, Landmark Consulting was initially involved in the design and oversight of the restoration of the second floor ballroom, the restoration of the second floor original windows and fabrication of custom designed storm/screen windows throughout the house. In 2008-2009, in partnership with Marilyn Kaplan of Preservation Architecture, Landmark Consulting developed a Concept Design Study & Condition Assessment for the purpose of assisting the Club with planning and implementation of future work required to protect and restore their historic building. The goals of the study were to specifically address items related to possible building alterations to support programs and minimum code requirements, and those associated with the preservation of the building. This report was used as the basis of an Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant application which was awarded in late 2009 for a masonry restoration project focusing on the area noted in the study as the highest priority need. The $260,000 grant project which is currently underway will include the full exterior restoration of the brick, granite and terra cotta walls of the west bay, the restoration of the decorative leaded glass windows and the creation of an ADA-compliant toilet room in an existing coat closet. Preservation Architecture and Landmark Consulting were awarded the architectural design services for the project after a competitively bid RFP process. Landmark Consulting is specifically responsible for producing the construction drawings and specifications and partial administration of the construction and grant.

In late autumn of 2012, the first phase of the EPF grant project was completed with the full restoration of the west bay masonry, leaded-glass windows, new copper roof as well as a fully renovated and accessible first floor restroom.  This project came in both on time and under budget leaving the Woman’s Club with extra funds to apply to additional preservation work.  In the winter of 2013, Landmark Consulting and Preservation Architecture developed a second set of construction and bidding documents for the stabilization and repair of the rear (north) porch.  Western Building Restoration was contracted to fully dismantle the north porch and rebuild it from the ground up with new porch floor, steps, masonry walls and basement bulkhead.  This work proceeded through the summer and autumn and was completed by the end of 2013.

Woman’s Club of Albany