By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Players at 16 Gramercy Park South has seen its fair share of tumult in the last couple years as the effort to dig itself out of its longstanding, crippling debts continues. However, its members will soon have something to celebrate since the club will be receiving a preservation award for its work on the building’s façade.
The club is being honored on April 30 at the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards along with Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, Tavern on the Green and other historical landmarks in the city. The award, from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, honors architects, craftspeople and building owners for their contributions to preserving city landmarks.
“It’s considered the Oscars of historic preservation,” Mary Workman, president of the Players Preservation Fund, said of the honor.
Workman, a theater director and instructor at The Acting Studio and a member of the Players since 2006, founded the Players Preservation Fund at the club as a 501c3 in 2013.
“Through the fund, we were able to use members’ tax deductible donations to do the brilliant renovations,” she said.
She added that the reconstruction began before the fund was officially founded but she wanted reassurance that the work would be completed and thought that members might want to help the efforts. She was correct, as the fund raised more than $500,000 for the project.
Workman said that $400,000 of the money raised went to the work on the façade itself and $37,000 went towards the restoration of the stained glass that is part of the façade.
The letter to the Landmarks Conservancy for consideration of the award noted that the primary reason for the restorations was to replace the brownstone of the portico, which was crumbling and for which the Department of Buildings had previously issued a violation, but the work also addressed the cracked stained glass panels, the deteriorated skylight on the terrace level and other details that were replaced and restored.
“We replaced (the front) with really high quality brownstone and used artisans to carve capitals and stones to match Stanford White’s original design,” Workman said. “The quality of the work is better than it was before.”
The additional $100,000 that was raised by the fund was used to update the infrastructure of the building and Workman said that next on the list is to repair the roof and install a proper HVAC system to protect all the art and artifacts in the club.
The Players will be hosting its own celebration later this month on April 20 to recognize the fund’s achievements with the work on the façade and acknowledge the award. The gala was originally intended to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Players but Shana Farr, a member of the Players and volunteer for the events committee who helped plan the gala, said that she felt it was important to also acknowledge the award as well.
“Because the work on the façade was finished (in the 125th year) and it was a great award, we decided to honor the Preservation Fund for their work,” Farr said.
Plans to restore the front of the building were in the works as early as 2012 but the project was put on hold due to club falling into debt and change in leadership at the club that followed was also a factor.
“We founded the Players Preservation Fund in October of 2013 during the transition time to complete the deteriorating façade and signal in a ‘new’ era at The Players,” Workman said.
“It’s a symbol of hope to us that we’ve won the Lucy Moses Historic Preservation Award.”