Kingswood Millwork, a Wainfleet, ON woodworking company, opened a U.S. operation in nearby Buffalo, NY. The custom wood door and window firm was selected as a subcontractor for a 400-window restoration project on the Corbin Building, a National Historic Register Building in New York City.

To qualify under buy-American requirements in the Federally funded project, the five-year-old company established Kingswood Historic Windows & Restoration Inc., incorporating the business in Buffalo in December 2010.

Kingswood Historic Windows & Restoration Inc. leased a plant and is now in the process of hiring six local woodworkers to handle the volume. Kingswood Millwork estimated that it would invest $350,000 in the plant.

“Buffalo has been a real windfall as far as the quality of people,” says Allan Cheynowski, who with brother Randy operates Kingswood. “The caliber is excellent.”

The Canadian parent Kingswood Millwork performs restoration work on historic wood doors and windows. The subcontractor award for the major restoration project in New York City was only part of the rationale for a U.S. presence. Kingswood Millwork also has seen growing business volume in the New York State area.

The lead time up to the Corbin Building project has been long. The exacting research by the building renovation architect has taken years to complete. And though Kingswood won the contract earlier this year, it has yet to mill or join any wood.

“We are literally in the approval stage,” says Cheynowski. “We are just now ready to get production underway.”

Wood discovered in the research into the building’s interior found a mix of species — fir, mahogany, cherry — in window frames and in carved decorative mouldings surrounding them.

“We’ll be primarily using mahogany and reclaimed Douglas fir,” says Cheynowski. “That was one major revision in the specifications. We got lucky and found a good source for the reclaimed fir in Connecticut.”

The mouldings surrounding the windows, restored by another subcontractor, are finished in natural wood. The windows themselves will be painted as a final finish.

Cheynowski will bring the window parts to the Buffalo plant, where workers will use traditional woodworking equipment — jointers and shapers, much like the original 19th century craftsmen — with no CNCs or other high tech machines involved.

But the management of the project — cataloging parts for 400 windows and carefully keeping related components together — will be computerized, with window parts and glazing carefully labeled.

“Everything has to be cataloged; what comes out has to go back into the same spot,” Cheynowski says.

The project will include hardware and restoration, including cleaning traditional pulleys and counterweights that assist in raising antique windows.

“The majority of the building will retain the original glazing or have similar replacement specifications,” says Cheynowski. “The two lower floors will use thermal pane and updated stripping.”

The Corbin Building windows renovation is part of the building initiative launched in lower Manhattan. Its goal is to help the area and its construction industries recover from the trauma of the World Trade Center destruction and the financial downturn that followed. It is among 59 projects and $22 billion in construction coordinated by the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, a local governmental agency.

The nine-story Corbin Building, owned by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, was the tallest building in New York City when it opened in 1889. Decorative features include intricate red terra cotta facade and a bronze-plated cast-iron and mahogany spiral staircase.

The Corbin Building project has involved more than five years of research, planning and design between the MTA Capital Construction team and the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the Federal Transportation Administration, the source of funding for the project.

To carry out the rehabilitation, preservation architecture specialist Page Cowley, principal of Page Ayres Cowley Architects, and Craig Covil, principal of engineering firm ARUP, spent years studying original blueprints, early photos of the building, and researched sources for construction materials and suppliers when the building was first erected. CWB

The Corbin Building’s design represents a moment of transition between curtain-walled exteriors of steel-beamed construction that lead to glass skinned skyscrapers, and traditional construction where the walls supported the building’s weight. As walls carried less weight, windows could get bigger. These larger wood-framed windows were embellished with wood carvings. The execution and management of these wood windows is Kingswood Millwork what brought to the effort.

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