Terra-cotta Is Restored on 124-year-old Manhattan Building

Western Facades, a Western Construction Group elite projects unit dedicated exclusively to large-scale, multi-million dollar facade restorations and replacements, has completed its work as part of the Fulton Center’s Corbin Building Restoration project in Lower Manhattan.

Western Facades has completed its work on the Fulton Center's Corbin Building Restoration project in Lower Manhattan.

Western Facades has completed its work on the Fulton Center’s Corbin Building Restoration project in Lower Manhattan.

Built by its namesake Austin Corbin (1827-96), the building was designed by architect Francis Hatch Kimball and construction was completed in 1889. Kimball specialized in ornate architecture in various revival styles, and terra-cotta provided him with the material to decorate his buildings. Western Facades was tasked with the complete restoration effort of the ornate terra-cotta, as well as the rest of Corbin’s historic exterior adorned with brick, cast iron window bays and brownstone.

The building is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Architect for the project was Page Ayres Cowley Associates, with engineering provided by ARUP. Special consulting on the project was provided by Building Conservation Associates.

The scope of work included documentation and assessment of each individual terra-cotta unit (more than 2,000) and cast iron part (more than 1,000) on the building. Terra-cotta units and cast iron parts deemed beyond repair were slated for replacement with original models from the building removed for precise replication. “The new terra-cotta was fabricated by Boston Valley Terra Cotta, and the original terra-cotta was treated with Keim coatings to restore the terra-cotta sections that had lost their glaze due to weathering,” explains Michael C. Radigan, senior operations manager for Western Facades. “Terra-cotta stones were set in US Heritage Type L custom-colored lime putty mortar. Other than that some minor patching was performed using custom-color Jahn M100 patching material.”

Other highlights from the project scope included comprehensive facade cleaning, 100 percent re-pointing of all brick and terra-cotta units, rebuilding of the highly ornate brick and terra-cotta parapet wall, new brownstone storefront entrances built to match original construction, as well as restoration of the building’s main staircase with bronze-plated cast-iron panels, mahogany handrails and marble wainscoting.

The contract was completed in the second quarter of 2013.

The formation of Western Facades draws on key personnel with extensive experience on complex projects from Brisk Waterproofing, a Western company serving the New York City real-estate community for nearly a century. The new Western Facades team is led by Radigan who works exclusively on large-scale, complex facade restoration and re-cladding projects requiring the company’s expertise and experience.

The scope of work included documentation and assessment of each individual terra-cotta units and cast iron parts on the building.

The scope of work included documentation and assessment of each individual terra-cotta units and cast iron parts on the building.

The Western Facades team was established in response to the growing number of large scale projects the firm has been retained for over the past several years, including The GM Building, 90 Church Street, 55 Water Street and 215 East 68th Street in New York.

“A large and complex project like this requires a unique skills set, and the coordination of many skilled workers on a daily basis. This is precisely the type of job for which the Western Facades team was created,” Radigan says.

Western Facades is part of Western Construction Group, offering a nationwide network of expertise that building owners, engineers, architects and property managers count on to develop cost-effective, corrective measures that can add years of useful life to buildings and structures. Serving the entire nation from over 30 offices, it offers time-tested techniques combined with innovative new technology.

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