Grand Central’s Whispering Restoration is Complete

12/01/2012, New York, NY

A Manhattan Curiosity Since 1913, the Beaux-Arts Vault Attracts Attention of Tourists and New Yorkers.

Graciano Corporation masonry specialists has completed the historic restoration of one of Manhattan’s beloved “insider” landmarks, the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal.

The Graciano team has spent the past three months painstakingly replacing more than 1,000 of the original Gustavino terra cotta tiles that have covered the vaulted hall since 1913. Graciano crews have repaired tile cracks and completely repointed over 1,000 technically challenging raised mortar joints that seal the dome’s interior.

Thousands of travelers routinely pass through the gallery each day, but New Yorkers and tourists have visited the space for almost a century just to experience its novel acoustics. Words spoken softly into one corner carry up and over the 50-foot-wide floor to the opposite corner, where they are clearly audible.

“The job was accomplished one quadrant at a time with little impact on pedestrian flow and no impact on the whispering effect,” said George Monasterio, Chief Architect for Metro-North, which operates and maintains Grand Central. “This restoration project was accomplished by hand, tile by tile.”

According to Graciano Vice President and General Manager Tom Corbo, “In its day, the Guastavino system was a dramatic innovation, making it possible to cover a vault with a relatively thin, lightweight skin of tile and mortar.

“One reason the Grand Central project ran so smoothly was that our technicians already knew the Guastavino system so well. In 2000 we completed one of the world’s largest terra-cotta restoration projects, repairing the Guastavino tile vaults that now cover the BridgeMarket under the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge.”

The Manhattan end of the 1910 bridge featured a cathedral-like series of vaults designed to house an open-air market. But after decades of neglect, the market space was in ruins. Graciano removed, repaired and replaced almost 9,000 tiles, trim elements and ornate field pieces, working to exacting historical preservation standards. It was the first-ever reconstruction of a Guastavino structure.

“The Queensboro Bridge project was a long and exacting task, but our craftsmen really brought the space back to life,” stated Gino Marchese, Graciano’s Superintendent. “And as we take down our scaffolding in the Whispering Gallery, we’re proud to have helped preserve another one of New York’s unique architectural treasures — just in time for its 100th birthday.”

With offices in New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh, Graciano Corporation is respected nationwide for its expertise in historic restoration and preservation. Some of the company’s recent projects are the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Cloisters, Moynihan Station, MetLife Tower, Rockefeller Center and the Apollo Theater.

Since it’s founding in 1916, Graciano has earned numerous awards from such organizations as the International Masonry Institute, New York Construction News, and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

Contact: Glenn Foglio, President, Graciano Corporation 412-963-8400.

Related Project Details

  • Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
  • 2012