Monday, October 29, 2012

How does slate roofing perform in a hurricane?


Bad weather is coming.  Very bad weather.  Winds, driving rain—the stuff that makes us pause and lok up at the roof.  How does slate hold up compared to other material choices?  The American Society of Testing on Material has established a standard specification for roofing slate, C-406, which tests the slate for three physical requirements that the slate must pass to be classified as an S-1 to grade material:

ASTM C 120 - Modulus of Rupture … This test determines the breaking load, modulus of rupture and modulus of elasticity of slate. The modulus of elasticity is not overly important for roofing slates, but should not be entirely discounted.

ASTM C 121 - Water Absorption of Slate … Porosity of the material is tested by submerging the slate samples in water for defined periods and then gauging absorption.

ASTM C 217 - Weather Resistance … This standard defines the depth of softening as an expression of weather resistance of a slate. The depth is determined by a shear/scratch tester or a hand scraping tool.

After being crushed by hurricanes in the early 1990’s and seeing staggering losses from sub-standard building practices and materials, the government in Miami, Florida, decided to do something about it.  New standards, testing and licensing were created by legislators that raised the bar higher than anywhere else in the United States. In order to have your product “Miami-Dade-County “ approved the product must pass many stringent tests.

This includes the wind up-lift test where the slate was tested on a roof and subjected to 110 mph wind with gusts up to 140 mph with no movement detected.  Slate was also subjected to a wind-driven rain test in which 90 to 110 mph winds were blown against a 2:12 pitch roof while 8.8 inches per hour of rain fell.  The result?  No water penetration was detected underneath afterward.  This testing is by far the most severe for roofing products to pass and only clay tile materials could come close to the performance of slate.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saving St. Patrick's Church in Watervliet, New York


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany closed St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church last year because the structure, which has been deteriorating for years, would require restoration they were unable (or unwilling) to pay for.  In March 2012, local developer Nigro Companies filed a proposal to rezone the property from residential to business status so that it could raze the church as well as an attached rectory, former school building and six private residences.   What are they proposing to replace this landmark structure with?  A new Price Chopper grocery store.  After tossing around loose, unsubstantiated numbers, Nigro Companies released a scant, four page letter from an architect in Ballston Spa as it's conditions assessment and engineer's estimate of cost.  You can see an example of what such a report should look like here.  I encourage you to contrast and compare.
 
St. Patrick's Church, which is clearly the tallest point in town, is modeled after the Upper Basilica in Lourdes and is considered the defining piece of architecture in Watervliet. Some in the community have responded with criticism and formed Citizens for St. Patrick's, a group opposed to the demolition ofthe church.  The group has obtained a statement by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that the church is eligible to apply for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Planning board meetings have taken place regarding the developer's proposal, and a decision from the City Council is expected in the Fall of 2012.

Nigro Companies created a website calling itself the '19th Street Redevelopment Project' where they could promote their position without coming across as another money hungry developer bent on erasing history to erect yet another strip mall.  They published an architect's four page report (half of it photos) that apologizes for the estimated price tag of $4m to restore the church.  The developer even offers this rationale for the proposed development:

"After a thorough evaluation, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Watervliet, NY, reached the decision recently to sell the former St. Patrick’s Church and associated buildings. The financial burden to operate and maintain the 25,000-square-foot church was simply too great for our small Catholic Community to bear.  We share the affection many feel for these buildings and would have preferred a buyer who would renovate St. Patrick’s as a worship space and preserve the buildings on the property. However, the investment that would be required to rehabilitate the buildings to make them habitable and safe appears financially unrealistic for any organization in our region, non-profit or otherwise.   Given the necessary and costly repairs to the church and other buildings, the most responsible choice was to offer the property for sale, with the proceeds remaining in Watervliet and Green Island for the long-term benefit of the Catholic community."  (Source:  http://www.stpatrickswatervliet.org)
This statement is carefully crafted.  Why is restoration for another congregation's use the only option they would consider?  Certainly "the investment that would be required to rehabilitate the buildings ... appears financially unrealistic for any organization in our region, non-profit or otherwise" but they've predetermined that those are the only viable options and done so without any research or attempt to find an interested party.  What about repurposing for housing with retail on the first floor of the structure?  Churches and other institutional structures throughout the US are being adaptively reused quite regularly.  It's the "green" choice and a socially responsible course of action.
"Stewardship is the heart of the environmental movement. The only way we can really take care of nature is by taking care of what is all around us and believing in the power of preservation.   Every time we extend the service life of a building, we avoid the environmental impacts of creating something new, we avoid the environmental impacts of our throwaway culture." -- Jean Carroon, FAIA, Goody Clancy (Boston)
The Catholic church claims that they built the church at the turn of the century, and that it is well within their rights to sell it to a developer who'll level the lot and build a new Price Chopper grocery store just around the corner from the existing one in town. But who is "they" when the church says "they" built it? The chuch was erected with the funds gathered each Sunday from the working class, immigrant people who inhabited the community a century ago. People who married there, had children baptized there and whose funeral masses were said there. During the 20th century, their children, grand children, and great-grand children celebrated relgious events, weddings and funerals there. The structure, itself, is their monument in the community.  Repurposed on the inside as anything--apartments, commercial space, whatever--the outside can remain much as it has for the life of the building.  "See, there is the building where you were baptized,"  "There is where my grandparents met at a dance and later married," "There is where my father's funeral mass was celebrated."  Buildings connect us to the past; they are where human events take place.  Saving a church isn't just about the bricks and mortar and whats good for the environment; its about preserving our history which, in turn, is about cultural heritage.
"Historic preservationists are ultimately interested in the preservation of communities.   We believe that by honoring the past – by protecting the key buildings and landscapes of our communities, telling their stories, and keeping them in use – we build a more sustainable and just world.  Without the evidence of the past, and without examples of past achievements in architecture, our cities and towns would be lifeless.   Even as we build for today, we must maintain continuity with the past."  -- Dr. Max Page, UMass-Amherst
You wouldn't think this conversation could be happening in Albany County, NY, in 2012.  This is a masonry structure which epitomizes "sustainable design."  The embodied energy in this building is astounding--it's cathedral-like. Look at the pictures. Maintenance was obviously deferred for decades by the same Diocese that now cries poor mouth.  Had they maintained the structure properly they would not now be in the position that they put themselves in.  Somehow this irony is lost on them.  [See "Demolition by neglect," a tactic not foreign to institutions such as this.]  That is exactly the policy that was in place ... "let it fall down around us and we'll say we cannot afford to fix it."  Have other options been realistically explored? No.  Why?  Because its too much work.  The church wants this to go away as quickly as possible so the sale can proceed and the funds can be added to their coiffers.  They're not interested in finding a way to preserve the community's connection to the institution that was the Catholic church in Watervliet.  They're not interested in doing what's right for the environment.  They're interested in generating revenue.  There's a real message in that for all of us to pause and consider.
“Historic preservation is, ultimately, not about buildings, it is about culture – which is about humanity. Our cultural trajectories result in our understanding of the technologies that permit us to shape Earth-formed materials into buildings. Buildings become the shelters and settings in which we enrich ourselves more fully. Cultural preservation – in all of its diverse forms – is as important as the preservation of buildings, if we are to fully understand what it is to be human. The saving and passing on of buildings of significance helps us to resist cultural stagnation and fosters sustained renewal.”  -- Hon. Michael Devonshire, NYC Landmarks Commission 
 
ADDENDUM
While the diocese of Albany refuses to rehabilitate St. Patrick’s church in Watervliet, or entertain any option but its sale to a developer for demolition, it is worthwhile to take a peek at what it has done to it’s own ‘home’, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. The cathedral website relishes in the massive and far-ranging restoration of the historic cathedral.  What the cathedral website doesn’t mention is the cost.  The exterior and interior phases cost more than $19 million and took over five years to fulfill. Over 70% of the exterior stone was removed and replaced.

While the diocese fell $3.5 million short of its $10 million goal for the interior work, several items on its wish list, including air-conditioning, a new concrete floor with radiant heat, new bathrooms and an elevator, were postponed.  The large pipe organ was removed for cleaning and repair, but ended up costing in excess of $1 million to restore.   “If more money becomes available, we’ll do those other items in the master plan that we couldn’t complete in the current restoration,” Bishop Hubbard said in 2009.  This as parishes in his diocese are literally falling apart.

(Sources: website of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Albany, and Albany Times-Union, “Renovation a Revelation”, published 30 Nov 2009)

Friday, October 5, 2012

SEMINAR TOMORROW - Friday 19 October - Green Design and Historic Preservation: Exploring the Historic Building Envelope - Amherst, MA


University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Department of Architecture + Design
Department of Environmental Conservation, Building Construction & Technology
The UMASS/Hancock Shaker Village Historic Preservation Program

When:  Friday, October 19, 2012; 1:00 – 5:30 PM
Where:  University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Lincoln Campus Center, Room 165-169
Admission:  Free and open to the public

Program

This workshop examines the tension between historical integrity and the quest for greater energy efficiency from the building envelope.  Topics include:

·         Positioning Preservation in the Center of Green Building
·         Classical and Traditional Details of the Envelope
·         Merits of Original Windows
·         Improving Performance of Historic Building Thermal Envelopes
·         Case Study: UMASS Holdsworth Hall

Speakers

Jack Alvarez, AIA, Landmark Consulting LLC
Matthew Bronski, P.E., Senior Project Manager, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (SGH), Boston
Carl Fiocchi, M.Arch., Teaches green building and historic preservation UMASS/Amherst
Thomas RC Hartman, AIA, Principal, Coldham & Hartman Architects, Amherst MA
Lisa Kersavage, M.Sc., Project Manager, Lower Mississippi River Delta Design Initiative, NYC, NY
Max Page, Ph.D., Director of Historic Preservation Program, UMASS/Amherst
Ludmilla Pavlova, AIA, Senior Facilities Planner in Campus Planning at UMass/Amherst
Ben Weil, Ph.D., Teaches courses in energy efficient buildings UMASS/Amherst
 
Directions & Parking

 
For directions and maps: http://www.umass.edu/visitorsctr/Directions_to_Campus/  
Parking: parking is available at the Campus Center garage (for a fee).

Learning Units


For all architects, learning units can be earned by attending this or any of the WMAIA monthly programs. For more information regarding learning units contact Lorin Starr at director@wmaia.org
LEED Credential Maintenance credits are available through self-reporting.  4 Non-LEED credits are possible for those attending the entire event.

For more information about the M.Sc. in historic preservation program at UMass-Amherst
 
Click here:   http://umasshsv.wordpress.com/

For more information about the speakers


 

Schedule
 

1:00 – 1:15
Opening Remarks : Max Page
 
 
 
1:15 – 2:00
Introduction of  and Presentation of  Lisa Kersavage
 
 
2:00 – 2:45
Introduction of  and Presentation of  Mathew Bronski
 
 
2:45 – 3:30
Introduction of and Presentation of  Jack Alvarez
 
 
3:30– 3:45
Break and  Refreshments
 
 
3:45 - 4:30
Introduction of and Presentation of Tom Hartman
 
 
4:30 – 5:15
Introduction of  and Presentation of  Holdsworth Speakers 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Save the Date: Green Design and Historic Preservation Seminar



Green Design and Historic Preservation: Exploring the Historic Building Envelope
When:  Friday, October 19, 2012; 1:00 – 5:30 PM
Where: UMass-Amherst, Campus Center, Room 165-169
Cost:    Free

Introduction: Max Page
Max Page, PhD, is Professor of Architecture and History at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and a 2003 Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 (University of Chicago Press, 1999), which won the Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians, for the best book on architecture and urbanism; co-edited (with Steven Conn) Building the Nation: Americans Write Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Environment and (with Randall Mason) Giving Preserving a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States. For the hundredth anniversary of Times Square in 2004, he curated the centennial exhibition on the history of the Square. He wrote a regular column for Architecture magazine, and has written for other popular magazines, including the New York Times, Metropolis, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. Most recent books are: The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of Nework's Destruction and Reconsidering Jane Jacobs.

Lisa Kersavage:  Positioning Preservation in the Center of Green Building

Lisa Kersavage is Project Manager of the Lower Mississippi River Delta Design Initiative. She is responsible for the planning, development and initial implementation of the project, in collaboration with staff from the Environmental Defense Fund and Van Alen Institute, as well as the New Orleans-based Leadership Team, institutional and corporate partners, and consultants. Lisa has more than fifteen years of experience in urban planning, urban sustainability and historic preservation work, and extensive experience in non-profit leadership. Before joining EDF and VAI, she was the Senior Director of Preservation and Sustainability at the Municipal Art Society of New York, where she also served as the Director of Advocacy and Policy and the Kress/R.F.R Fellow for Historic Preservation and Public Policy. She has held positions as a public policy consultant to the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, Executive Director of the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation and Executive Director of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. Lisa received her M.S. in historic preservation, with an urban planning focus, from Columbia University and her B.A. in art and architectural history from Penn State University.
Mathew Bronski: Historic Envelope
 
Matthew Bronski, PE is a senior project manager in the Boston office of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (SGH). He also serves as the Practice Leader for Preservation Technology across SGH’s six nationwide offices. Since joining SGH in 1995, he has focused on investigating and diagnosing the causes and consequences of building envelope and structural problems in historic buildings, and designing sensitive and appropriate repairs, rehabilitations or restorations to solve those problems. As the 2009-10 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation.

Jack Alvarez:  Merits of Original Windows
Jack Alvarez, AIA is a partner in Landmark Consulting LLC. His work has specialized in both residential design and in the restoration and sensitive adaptation of historic buildings as a result of over fifteen years working for architectural firms renowned for their high profile restorations of several Newport grand mansions, Federal-era presidential homes as well as the sensitive retrofit of West Coast landmarks for seismic requirements. Most recently he has worked on the restoration of Thomas Jefferson's homes, Poplar Forest & Monticello and James Madison's home, Montpelier, all in rural Virginia. In 2005 he had overseen the restoration of the Newport Country Club, a neo-classical, late 19th century masterpiece.

Tom Hartman:  Improving Performance of Historic Building Thermal Envelopes
Tom Hartman, AIA is a principal with Coldham&Hartman Architects, a full service architectural practice designing residential, commercial, and institutional buildings for public, private, and non-profit entities. The firm’s underlying mission is a professional commitment to fine architecture, and specifically to elevating "green" design to a high order of aesthetic refinement. Their focus on building rehabilitation founded in the belief that revitalization of old buildings is key to keeping our cities and towns alive, and to solving the planet’s energy puzzle.

UMass Historic Building: Holdsworth Hall Rehabilitation
Carl Fiocchi, MArch teaches Green Design and Historic Preservation in the Historic Preservation Program and Energy Modeling and Building Physics in the Architecture and Building Construction Technology Programs. He is concurrently doing dissertation research involving energy analysis of three iconic Modernist structures on the UMass-Amherst campus, i.e. Fine Arts Center, DuBois Library, and Lincoln Campus Center.

Ben Weil, PhD teaches courses in energy efficient buildings. With primary responsibility for the Extension Program in building energy, his research program is responsive to the needs of various stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including home builders, architects, weatherization companies, energy utilities, state government agencies, town governments, environmental and community organizations, and homeowners. He is particularly interested in the social and behavioral dimensions of energy efficiency. He is a building analyst certified with the Building Performance Institute, and continues to enjoy building diagnostics. He manages the online Green Building Certificate for the BCT program.
Ludmilla Pavlova, AIA is Senior Facilities Planner in Campus Planning at UMass Amherst and is responsible for master plan programming and planning for research, academic and administrative facilities and developing design guidelines. She has managed the planning of major capital projects Passionate about campus sustainability she helped author the first UMass Amherst Sustainability Plan.

Closing remarks:  Max Page
 
For more information about the M.Sc. in historic preservation at UMass-Amherst:  http://umasshsv.wordpress.com/

Directions & Parking:
For directions and maps: http://www.umass.edu/visitorsctr/Directions_to_Campus/
Parking is available at the Campus Center garage (for a fee).

Learning Units:

For all architects, learning units can be earned by attending this or any of the WMAIA monthly programs. For more information regarding learning units contact Lorin Starr at director@wmaia.org



LEED Credential Maintenance credits are available through self-reporting.  4 Non-LEED credits are possible for those attending the entire event.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hudson Armory on its way to the National Register of Historic Places

Last Spring I completed an historic structure report for the present owner of the former NYS armory in Hudson, New York.  I also submitted paperwork to the NY State Historic Preservation Office to have the armory included on the National Register of Historic Places.  I received word earlier this week that SHPO has reviewed and accepted my submission - - it's been sent to the National Park Service for final review.  Plans are being drawn up now to repurpose the structure as a new home for the library.  Below is an excerpt from the historic structure report:


The Armory as a New Building Type

The term armory was introduced in the militia’s vocabulary in the 1860’s and used almost exclusively after 1870 to describe facilities built or adapted for the sole use of the militia.  However, it was not until 1879 when the Seventh Regiment erected its armory in Manhattan’s Upper East Side that the term came to define a new, uniquely American building type.  Because of its scale, prominence, setting, design and decoration, the Seventh Regiment’s armory on Park Avenue was—and still is—regarded as the epitome of the building type.



In general terms, armories built after 1879 were structures that served many purposes, the foremost of which was the headquartering of local militia units.  They are all two part buildings: a forward administration structure with attached drill shed to the rear.  Many, such as the armory in Hudson, were castellated fortresses whose design was derived from the medieval European, gothic military architecture they sought to emulate.  The characteristics of the building type can be divided into four categories:  function; form, layout, and construction; location and setting; and architectural design and decoration.   


Function

Armories served as military facilities, clubhouses and public monuments.   As military facilities they served as headquarters for localized units of the state militia.  Weapons, munitions, tools and equipment were stored there.  The drill sheds afforded a place to train year round, unhampered by weather conditions.  And they served as a place to gather in times of emergency.  Armories were also clubhouses for their members, many of whom were members of the middle- and upper-classes; they were a gathering place for social and recreational purposes.  As public monuments, armories stood as a symbolic (and quite literal) reminder of the government’s presence and military might in the community, particularly during the post-Civil War era of labor-capital conflict.

Form, Layout and Construction

As far as layout and construction are concerned, armories built after 1879 followed the model and design of the Seventh Regiment:  multi-storied forward structures for office and administration with massive drill sheds attached to the rear.  All late nineteenth century armories were masonry structures that featured load bearing walls.  Aesthetically, the administration buildings dominated the design and appearance of armories after 1879; functionally, the drill sheds were their reason for being.  Practice on the village green was often impeded by weather; the need for a climactically controlled space, year round, was the reason for the advent of the new building type.  

 
The construction of the drill sheds, often tens of thousands of square feet of open space, required the use of state of the art engineering and technology, particularly the use of enormous steel trusses to support the vast roofs of the sheds.  The inspiration for the massive open floor spaces was the relatively new train shed building type (Grand Central Depot, New York, 1871) and the exhibition hall (Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876.)   In the Seventh Regiment’s and all extant, subsequent drill sheds, the truss work remained exposed, a hallmark feature of the armory building type.

Location and Setting

Armories were erected as near to the center of their communities as possible.  They were a daily reminder of the government’s military strength and presence, particularly in times of unrest when they reassured the law abiding citizens and were a foreboding symbol to those who would create disturbances.  And members did not want to travel to the outskirts of town for drill practice or mandatory meetings, or a social event at the armory.


Architectural Design and Decoration

 
The design of the Seventh Regiment and all armories erected after 1879 was most influenced by the architecture of European castles and forts built between the 12th and 15th centuries.  Like the structures that influenced their design, armories featured towers with battlements and crenellated parapets, battered masonry walls, tall, narrow windows with steel bars, and gated portcullises and sally ports.  But these were not for aesthetic purposes alone.  The armory was a fortress in times of unrest that could withstand a siege, and its militia could fire upon rioters from those towers and through those windows.   

History of Building, Occupants and Architect

The Building – The Armory in Hudson

Twenty years after the formation of the 23rd Separate Company on the 24th of May of 1878, plans were made to erect a new company-sized armory in the City of Hudson.  The new armory was designed by architect Isaac G. Perry and is remarkably similar to his other armories in Whitehall, Tonawanda and Ogdensburg, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The armory cost $6,000 to build and was paid for by Columbia County.  Prior to the construction of the new armory, the rear of the courthouse was used for meetings and administrative purposes; the unit drilled on Washington Park.  The administration building most closely resembles his armory in Hornell; the drill shed there, however, is perpendicular rather than at the rear.  The Hudson armory features a raised and battered stone foundation, a tripartite, arcaded entrance pavilion and a four story tower topped with a crenelated parapet.  A shorter tower with a conical roof creates an asymmetrical fa├žade typical of Perry’s armory designs.  A major fire on December 31, 1928, destroyed much of the interior; repairs were completed in 1930.      

The Occupants – Military Units Stationed in the Armory

The armory in Hudson, New York, was home to several company-sized units in what is today the New York Army National Guard.  These units were engaged in conflicts that included the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.  In the wake of the Civil War, the office of the New York State Adjutant General undertook an ambitious reorganization of the state’s militia designed to achieve more centralized control over training, supply and mobilization.  Among the new units of the New York National Guard was the 23rd Separate Company at Hudson.  This unit replaced a local militia company and was organized in 1878.   This unit was named “Cowles Guards” after Colonel David S. Cowles, a native son of Hudson killed in the Civil War. 

David Smith Cowles was born in Hudson in 1817.  The son of a Congregationalist preacher and educated at Yale, he entered the practice of law and eventually established his own practice.  Cowles served as district attorney in Columbia County for three terms.  When war erupted in 1861, he felt compelled to volunteer and served as a Colonel in the 128th Regiment.  On May 27, 1863, at the Battle of Port Hudson, he was killed after leading his troops against a rebel surge, preventing the lines from being overrun.  His death and subsequent funeral were well documented in the media and he remains a celebrated figure in the history of the City of Hudson.

     
The 23rd Separate Company retained its unit designation until 1897.  The armory was also home to Nucleus Co. I of the 203rd New York Volunteers during the Spanish American War.  In 1899, Co. D of the 1st Infantry Regiment was organized and housed at the Hudson Armory.  The armory’s men received local recognition in 1900 for enforcement of a quarantine order during a smallpox outbreak in nearby Stockport.  This unit was reorganized in 1905 as Co. F of the 10th Infantry Regiment.  The unit was called out during the Mexican Border Crisis of June 1916.  In February of 1917, the unit was dispatched to the Catskills to protect the reservoirs that supplied New York City’s drinking water after a German plot was uncovered to poison it.  In July, the unit was called into federal service and sent to northern France.  The unit saw action there and was involved in breaking the Hindenburg Line in 1918.  In 1940, the unit was reassigned to the 106th Infantry Regiment and sent to the South Pacific.  On November 20, 1943, the United States Army and 2nd Marine Division landed on Makin and Tarawa, initiating the Battles of Makin and Tarawa, in which the Japanese were defeated. The Gilbert Islands were then used to support the invasion of the Marshall Islands in February 1944.The final unit to call the Hudson Armory home was Co. B of the 152nd Engineers, from 1961 until the late 1970’s when the State decommissioned the armory; it has remained in private ownership since.
  



The Architect – Isaac G. Perry (1822-1904)

Born in Bennington, Vermont, in 1822, Isaac Gale Perry was raised and educated in Keeseville, New York, where his parents had relocated in 1829. Between 1832 and 1854 he completed an apprenticeship and entered into partnership with his father, Seneca Perry, a shipwright turned carpenter. By 1847, Seneca Perry and Son were advertising locally as carpenter-joiners who undertook masonry work. The Perrys were well known for their skills at constructing spiral staircases, and the younger Perry, according to one biographer, earned a local reputation as an architect before leaving Keeseville.

 
Isaac Perry's architectural work in Keeseville is not well documented, but it is likely that the Emma Peale residence, called "Rembrandt Hall" (1851), a Gothic Revival-style Downingesque cottage that contains a spiral staircase by the Perrys, is an early design. By 1852, Perry relocated to New York to apprentice in the office of architect Thomas R. Jackson (1826-1901). Jackson, who migrated from England as a child, rose to the position of head draftsman in the office of Richard Upjohn (1802-1872).  The New York State Inebriate Asylum (1864) was the first major project designed and constructed by Perry, and marked the turning point in his architectural career. Perry's inexperience is evident in Turner's account of the building's design. Perry later recalled that he penciled the plans with the assistance of his wife, Lucretia Gibson Perry. He also appears to have been assisted by Peter Bonnett Wight (1838-1925), the head draftsman in Jackson's firm, but Wight's role in the project is not well documented.

The First National Bank of Oxford Building, was constructed in 1894 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, designed by Perry and built by James M. Wright of Binghamton, New York. The Clerk’s Building of the Orleans County Courthouse was constructed in the High Victorian Gothic style in 1882-3. It forms a part of the Orleans County Courthouse Historic District in the Village of Albion. He also designed the Broome County Courthouse, built in 1897-1898. The Monday Afternoon Club, located at 191 Court St., Binghamton, was built by Perry in the Second Empire style.  A 21-room, Queen Anne Victorian mansion, was built for Colonel General Edward F. Jones in 1867 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places in the City of Binghamton. At the same time he designed and built the J. Stuart Wells House, listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 2009.

Perry is credited as the architect of about twenty armories in New York State, but supervised, and should possibly be credited for, as many as forty.  Many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Perry is considered to have been the first state architect in New York.  Governor Grover Cleveland appointed him to oversee construction activities at the state capitol. Perry was commissioned lead architect for the New York State Capitol and served from 1883 to its completion in 1899.  He was the third and last architect of the project and designed a dome for the capitol that was never built.  Although his official title was "Capitol Commissioner," by the mid- to late 1880s, Perry had oversight responsibility for all state government building programs and he was commonly referred to as the "State Architect."  He retired in 1899, and the state legislature officially created the Office of the State Architect that same year.