Coastal buildings must adapt to be preserved. Superstorm Sandy provided an unprecedented opportunity to ensure the long-term survival of the Bay Head Yacht Club, redefining the meaning of historic preservation in a post-Sandy era.
Since its construction in the 1920s the Bay Head Yacht Club has been the nexus of social, athletic and nautical activities at the head of Barnegat Bay as well as a contributing structure to that historic seaside community. The original clubhouse was set close to the water, creating a strong connection to the multiple waterside activities that it celebrated, but years of storms and rising sea levels exacted a significant toll on the wooden structure and its wooden foundation had reached the point of failure. A later (and unsympathetic) kitchen wing was in even worse shape. In 2012 PBDW was retained to raise the clubhouse on new pilings, replace the kitchen wing, restore the historic facades, and rehabilitate the entire interior of the clubhouse.
The project presented challenges ranging from the technical and logistical—raising a building by over 10’ that was constructed completely over water—to aesthetic and intellectual—preserving the design and the meaning of an historic waterside structure while replacing 40% of its volume and 100% of its envelope, and increasing its height by a full story. And because Superstorm Sandy struck in the middle of the project the planning criteria were in a constant state of evolution throughout the design phase. These challenges were ultimately resolved with a design that honors the Colonial Revival idiom of the original architecture, restores the role of clubhouse in its historic context, and celebrates the relationship of building to water.
The technical and logistical issues turned out to be relatively straightforward, if dramatic. After demolishing the kitchen wing we slid the historic portion of the building off its deteriorating wooden pilings and “parked” it on adjacent tennis courts while over 100 new steel and concrete pilings were driven to a depth of 60’ below the bottom of Barnegat Bay. The top of the new pilings—now 10’ above the water—were connected by a filigree system with beams up to 3’ deep and a concrete slab covering over 10,000 square feet. Then we jacked up the building and slid it back on to the new deck, a full story higher than it was before we started.
That extra story allowed us to construct a new “third” floor, a wooden deck at water level that provides abundant additional space for waterside activities and strengthens the building’s nautical identity, while separating conflicting uses represented by waterside dining and outboard motor repairs. New multi-paned windows and cedar shingles re-establish the texture of the original facades, while wrap-around decks and multiple doors strengthen the connection between club rooms and the site.
In addition to constructing a new 2-story kitchen wing we completely revised the interior. We clarified the circulation, removed inappropriate changes, and recreated missing elements to restore the major spaces—the main dining room and the high-ceilinged ballroom—to their original glory. At the same time we created new spaces—indoors and out– to meet an increased demand from the members for activities ranging from informal dining to watching championship tennis on the courts below.