Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
The Counting House is the physical expression of 147 years of manufacturing, adaptation to changing markets and the industry’s decline that occurred throughout New England in the 20th century. Located in Lowell, Massachusetts, the building is closely linked to the City’s industrial heritage.
Founded in 1825, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company operated as a textile mill until production ceased in 1926. This three-story brick Italianate building was originally known as the Hamilton Manufacturing Company Counting House, first constructed in 1870 to serve as the administrative center, watch house and transportation hub with direct access into the mill yard. Today, this historic building – renamed Counting House Lofts – is a contributing resource within the Locks and Canal Historic District, a district listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.
The unique structure’s redevelopment posed several design challenges:
1) Retaining the historic architectural integrity of a severely deteriorating building;
2) Accommodating the site’s program goals despite the challenging configuration of the existing building;
3) Achieving the Energy Star New construction Multi-family High Rise program and ensuring that all renovations were completed to the standards of the Lowell Historic Board, Secretary of the Interior and National Park Service.
Preserving the Past
The firm took great care to secure appropriate replacements for elements such as historically accurate windows, while containing the work within the exist- ing footprint; and maintained as many of the architectural details as possible including exposed ceilings, floor deck, columns and beams, and exposed masonry walls, including:
• Exterior train bay doors and original window masonry infills;
• Interior train bay wall and metal ceiling that was originally used for fire protection from the embers coming from the train smoke stack;
• An exposed column grid in the first floor corridor and exposed wood and steel columns and beams throughout to maintain industrial look and feel;
• A refurbished existing wood clad stair tower ;
• The incorporation of an existing tower into the third floor unit design;
• The stabilization and refurbishment of two existing bridges that span across the Hamilton Canal to the adjacent mill building.
The two railroad spur lines terminated at two attractive round-arched shipping doorways—each door arch is outlined by a projecting brickwork molding and has been carefully preserved, along with an inset, carved granite panel inscribed “1825”. An original floor scale used to weigh raw material is showcased in the entry sitting area as a reminder of the building’s historic past.
The narrow, long configuration of the building posed an interesting design challenge. Measuring just 45 feet wide, the structure is constrained by its position between the Hamilton Canal and pre-existing spur railroad tracks. The design team was able to maintain the existing interior train bay by incorporating it into four residential units.
The team also worked creatively with the 8’-0” column spacing to achieve 52 unique living spaces, and took advantage of dimensions of the building to develop amenity spaces: a lounge, gourmet kitchen, in-house laundry room, fitness room and outside patio.
The adaptive reuse of an existing building is inherently sustainable, and was coupled with other green building and energy efficient practices (including but not limited to the following):
• A construction waste and recycling program;
• Use of locally sourced materials to the greatest extent possible;
• High performing aluminum windows with low-E glass and argon;
• High density spray, low VOC foam insulation for high and consistent R-values with reduction of air infiltration;
• Spray cellulose demising wall insulation made of 85% recycled paper fibers;
• Blanket insulation made from natural ingredients and recycled content;
• Low or no VOC paints, adhesives and sealants;
• Green label carpets and vinyl plank flooring made from 72% recycled content and FloorScore® certified;
• Energy Star compliant fixtures;
• Individual, gas-fired, wall-mounted water heaters.
Counting House Lofts was supported by various affordable housing resources, including tax credits and subsidies provided by the Baker-Polito administration, the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), and the DHCD, as well as State Historic Tax Credits and Federal Historic Tax Credits from the National Park Service (NPS). The project was additionally supported with funding from the City of Lowell and MassHousing.