Custom Metal Products of Distinction Since 1909

Historic Rehabilitation: What Does It Take?

Posted Tue, November 14, 2017

Metal grilles installed into The Beacon of Jersey City next to a red lamp and two windows

"History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are."

- David McCullough, award-winning author and historian 

While history is often preserved in print or digital media, many forget the memories held between the walls of our nation’s historic buildings. Historic rehabilitation is a vital step in maintaining a connection to our country’s past. Architecture has a way of providing people with a glimpse of history – an insight into what it would be like to live in the past. Historic buildings also serve as reminders of some of the beautiful and tragic occurrences throughout history.

Due to the invaluable nature of historic buildings, preserving them is no easy task. Strict standards regulate the alterations of these buildings, down to their paint color. Parameters dictate if a building qualifies to earn a tax credit for their restoration. These standards exist to ensure the integrity of the buildings is maintained and help contractors reach their goals.

4 Treatment Options for Historic Renovation

Methods for treatment vary based on a variety of factors including historical importance, existing condition, use post-treatment, and code prerequisites. Depending on how the building is registered and if a historic event occurred within its walls, a structure can have different requirements for treatment. It’s also important to evaluate the condition of the building prior to rehabilitation and how that will affect its proposed function. Code requirements also need to be considered. It is important for the building to be structurally sound while following mandated accessibility laws without impacting the architectural character of the structure. 

If a contractor or architect is considering a historic renovation, it is important to note that there are clear differences between the standards for the four historic treatment options. The National Park Service provides detailed documentation of the guidelines for historic property treatments.


This treatment option is the least intrusive of the four. Historic preservation focuses on extending the lifetime of a building through protection and repair of existing materials. Maintenance and upgrades are the focus of preservation. Nothing is added or subtracted from the building.


The most common treatment option, rehabilitation, has more flexibility than the others. This treatment focuses on updating the property to allow for a new or continued use that maintains its historic architectural values.

At Coco Architectural Grilles & Metalcraft, we regularly participate in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. In 2007, we took on  The Beacon of Jersey City Project. The goal of this historic rehabilitation was to restore the buildings to their original character, while adding useful spaces for modern use.

The Beacon at Jersey City room with pool table and metal grilles on the wall behind it


Historic restoration allows contractors to restore a building by bringing it back to its grandeur from a particular time period. Additions from other time periods are removed while features from the original period are brought back to life. To make sure the building follows code regulations, updates to the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing may be made but they may not hinder the historical aesthetic of the property.

One of our favorite restoration projects was our update to the ventilation system at one of New York’s official landmarks: Gustavino’s. The Gustavino’s Project required us to construct air vents that would heat or cool the room without blowing directly on guests. Our design pushed the air upward to keep guests comfortable while matching the design of this historic venue.  

Gustavino's after Coco Metalworks updated the vents above the doorways in the banquet hall


Reconstruction occurs when part of a structure is missing and can only be rebuilt using historic evidence. This treatment option requires an understanding of the architectural trends from the period the building was constructed. Spatial relationships must be maintained and materials and colors must appear as they would during the period.

Reconstruction is not a foreign concept for Coco Architectural Grilles & Metalcraft. Our services include the option to create custom metal fabrication products. We have perfected the art of custom creations since 1909. This allows us to create metal products that could fit your designated time period. If you can design it, we can fabricate it.

Metal grilles between windows and elevators on an upper level of the Beacon of Jersey City

Let Us Help You Restore History

We’re proud of the work we do with architects and engineers to bring historic buildings back to life. If you are looking for first-rate metalwork, no matter how difficult the project, we’re eager to show you what we do. From rehabilitation to reconstruction, our metal bar grilles will complete your building.

For inspiration, see our Grille and Metalwork Catalogue.

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