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NOW THIS IS WHAT WE CALL “OVER THE TOP” (LITERALLY): A dramatic lintel is what we see in the West Village when we take the time to look up. Photo by Gordon Hughes.

Lintels, did you ever notice our West Village Lintels? You might ask, what are lintels? Well they should not be confused with lentils as in your soup. No, they are, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “the horizontal piece over a door or window”.

Well, I never really did notice these lintels until our historic 1853 co-op was forced to redo our exterior walls. Two of those walls are facing the street and subject to the city’s codes, both building codes (DOB) and the city’s Historic Landmarks Department. These departments are just one or two of the steps one goes through to repair the buildings’ walls, along with the stripping, repointing, painting and repairing or replacing those lintels. All this in order to stay within the city’s codes.

Restoring one’s co-op one must jump through numerous hoops.

So now I, and others on our co-op board, were forced to become experts on bricks, mortar, historic colors and lintels, yes lintels.

Our building is, I think unusual in that it was at some time in the mists of history, four buildings. These four buildings were converted over the years into two buildings, combined if you will. That means there are four different sets of lintels on two buildings.

Some of these supports are more elaborate than others. The city is very particular, as it should be, when it comes to restoration. All this to say I began looking up at the buildings around the Village, and to my absolute amazement there was a treasure trove of delightful art on these wonderful old buildings. Now I have said this before, and in all probability as I compare the West Village to other parts of our city will say it again, when it comes to great our whole city is great. That said, there are no greater lintels in any other parts of the city with all its charm than those of the West Village… I’m just saying.

—Gordon T. Hughes Jr.

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