New York Projects Update

6/01/2000, New York

The landmark MetLife Tower, built in 1909, is currently undergoing full-scale restoration. The tower is constructed of limestone and Tuckahoe marble, and has a gold-leaf dome. The building’s clock tower boasts 24-foot-diameter face on each of its four sides, with a mosaic tile background, and each numeral is actually a backlit window.

Graciano Corporation, specialists in structural and historic restoration, beautification and repair, is playing a significant role in this project. Under the direction of Gino Marchese, job superintendent, Graciano is replacing lintels; cleaning, pointing, replacing, patching, and stabilizing limestone and marble; and cleaning and resetting tile in the clock faces.

Also involved in the project are the Building Conservation Association, which is overseeing restoration of the stone facade; Robert Silman Associates, lending expertise on structural design; and Gordon H. Smith, directing restoration of the clock.

Graciano was also instrumental in last year’s renovation of the Queensboro Bridge, which allowed the development of Bridgemarket. A historic landmark, this magnificent cathedral-like space was restored, after more than a half a century of neglect, to its original use as a public marketplace. Once in total disrepair and home to river rats, the marketplace is once again a beautiful place, with a stunning vaulted tile ceiling, terra-cotta-clad columns, a granite fountain and a richly colored mosaic. At over 98,000 square feet, is home to several shops and a restaurant.

The original structure was designed in 1914 by Henry Hornbostel for use as an open-air market. The tongue-and groove terra-cotta ceiling, designed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastivino y Esposito, consists of 32 domed, self-supporting four-sided vaults, with dramatic 30- by 30-foot vault ceilings, varying in elevation from 24 to 44 feet. Four layers of glazed terra-cotta tiles set at perpendicular angles in a basket-weave pattern form the vaults, known as Guastivino arches.As a subcontractor for Grow-Perini General Contractors, Graciano Corporation carried out what is thought to be the first-ever rebuilding of Guastavino vaults—and one of the largest terra-cotta repair and restoration projects in the world. Graciano faced a particular challenge due to the fact that some of the steel supports had rusted and expanded inside the columns, pushing the terra-cotta tiles out of alignment. This meant removing, resetting and, in some cases, replacing the tiles. The company also cleaned all the stone and granite bases. Infill panels on the Second Avenue approach required the reconstruction of nearly 5,000 tiles. In total, the project required over 3,600 terra-cotta tiles, 1,728 trim borders and 3,290 ornate filed pieces.

Graciano also recently refurbished Rockefeller Center. Built in 1929, Rockefeller Center is an impressive example of Art Deco architecture. It was constructed with Indiana limestone, an elegant building material. After researching a range of cleaning methods, the company decided to use filtered water saturation, a method approved by the New York City Landmarks Commission.

For all its projects in New York City, Graciano uses only skilled union craftspeople from Local One and laborers from Local 731.

Graciano Corporation, founded in 1916, is one of the oldest family-owned masonry restoration companies in the country. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, the company has offices in New York City, Cleveland and Akron.

Graciano is known and respected nationwide for its expertise in historic preservation. Some of the company’s other restoration projects have included Shea Stadium, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Grand Central Station, the landmark 90 Church Street, and numerous postal facilities. Last year the International Masonry Institute presented Graciano Corporation first prize in its Golden Trowel Awards for the restoration of the Georgian Court Bridge in Lakewood, New Jersey. In 1997, Graciano was awarded this same prize for the Main Post Office and Courthouse Building in Newark.