Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal

The oldest business in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, the Oyster Bar & Restaurant owes much of its distinction to the iconic 1913 tilework looming over its 13,000-square-foot interior. Just outside, the Whispering Gallery echoes both the design of the restaurant space and the voices of visitors charmed by its remarkable acoustics.

When a century of wear and tear finally made restoration a high priority, Graciano Corporation was charged with returning both spaces to their as-built condition. The assignment was challenging: Within a tight timetable, it required the revival of long-forgotten installation techniques, combined with minimal disruption of either pedestrian traffic or the workings of a busy culinary institution.

Tile by tile, Graciano Corporation inspected and sounded the 13,000-square-foot restaurant’s arches and vaults, then undertook meticulous cleaning, repointing, patching and crack repairs. By the three-month project’s end,1,300 square feet of terra cotta had been removed and reset or replaced with newly fabricated, architecturally correct tile above dining rooms, lunch counter, and bar.

Graciano also spent three months painstakingly replacing more than 1,000 of the Gustavino tiles that had covered the Whispering Gallery since 1913. The team repaired tile cracks and completely repointed more than 1,000 technically difficult, raised mortar joints that seal the curving shell. In the end, the Gallery’s famous voice-throwing properties remained as striking and mystifying as ever.

“The Oyster Bar,” says Graciano vice president Tom Corbo, “was a real challenge. Accommodating a big commercial kitchen and an operating restaurant required detailed, rigorous planning to minimize the establishment’s downtime.” Completed on schedule, the multi-phase project was carried out over the course of more than a year due to intermittent access to the site.

Graciano’s familiarity with the Guastavino system kept the project running smoothly and on schedule. After more than a year of intermittent access to the site, the project drew praise for its authenticity as well as its negligible impact on day-to-day operations.

Project Portfolio Images

Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal
Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal

Project Details

  • Completion Date: 2/25/2014
  • Owner: The MTA
  • Architect: Building Conversation Associates
  • General Contractor: Graciano Corporation

Glossary Items