Seaboard Restoration Gives New York’s First Green Building a “Face Lift”

One of the major cracks on the 4th Street side

700 Broadway

Heads and other terra cotta pieces that had to be tagged, removed, catalogued, organized, cleaned, repaired and sequenced for resetting

700 Broadway

Repairing two of the heads in the basement

700 Broadway

Seaboard team members working on the window arches on the 8th floor

700 Broadway

Measuring the proper distance between each head

700 Broadway

The Seaboard Team

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The restored heads and facade on the 8th floor of 700 Broadway

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The restored sandstone entranceway at 700 Broadway

Seaboard Restoration Gives New York’s First Green Building a “Face Lift”
Work includes restoration of close to 100 terra cotta gargoyles

Port Chester, NY – (February 23, 2010) Architect Philip Toscano was very familiar with the historic Romanesque Revival loft building at 700 Broadway in Manhattan, having worked on it under three different owners. When it became evident that a façade repair project was turning into an extensive deconstruction and restoration – one corner of the building’s top floor had previously undiscovered structural damage and its decorative terra cotta gargoyle faces and terra cotta trim had deteriorated – Toscano turned to engineer Brian E. Flynn, P.E. and Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration Company to assist in making the building safe and restoring its past appearance. The property, formerly known as the Schermerhorn Building, is an eight-story brick and terra cotta-trimmed, cast iron-constructed building with graceful arched windows and a sandstone base. It was designed in the late 1800s by architect George B. Post, a civil engineer by training whose innovative buildings included the New York Stock Exchange and the Equitable Life Assurance Society building, which was the first office building designed to accommodate elevators. Previously renovated in 1989 under the ownership of the National Audubon Society, 700 Broadway earned the distinction of being New York City’s first “green” building. It continues to rank among the city’s greenest properties, with its sustainable design features, natural light and advanced lighting systems, recycling chutes, incorporation of recycled materials, and natural gas-fired absorption heater/chiller. Energy-efficient features include R-12 wall insulation, R-4 windows, and roof insulation with an R-33 value, all of which enable the building to use up to 75 percent fewer watts of electricity per square foot.

The current owners, purchased the building for $70MM in 2008 and prepared for miscellaneous façade renovations, including structural repairs and reconstruction of the ornate masonry work from the arched windows up to the cornice extending over four window bays on the 8th floor at 4th Street and Broadway. The construction team, namely architect Philip Toscano, engineer Brian Flynn, and Seaboard representatives, quickly discovered extensive damage. The property had not been built to accommodate settling and constant vibrations from the nearby subway line. The vibrations had caused one of the walls at the top of the building to move, which resulted in the walls leaning several inches outward. Several large cracks in the wall that extended from the exterior to the interior of the building were evident. Another façade defect, invisible until the walls were dismantled, was separation of the inner and outer walls. This defect was more extensive than the cracks found at the corner of the building and required repair. The walls were rebuilt along with additional tiebacks and reinforcements to better protect the integrity of the building. The team also determined that almost all of the 94 terra cotta heads – many representing political figures of the time – were crumbling or broken, had suffered internal damage, and required repair.

“One of our biggest challenges was supporting the roof during the restoration,” explained Jay Fiebich, General Manager of Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration and acting Project Manager. “The corner of the 8th floor had to be completely dismantled from the roof down, including careful removal and meticulous handling of the terra cotta cornice, gargoyles, and decorative pieces.”

Engineer Brian Flynn noted additional challenges. “The restoration took extra time because blueprints of the building were not available. We quickly learned that the building was built like a fort, with 3-foot-thick walls on the 8th floor and cast iron columns and beams. I had to alter the construction and restoration specs each time a wall was opened since I never knew what we would find inside the walls.”

“Throughout the project, we had to create new solutions as we discovered hidden structural issues during deconstruction of the building,” said Danny Jones, General Superintendent at Seaboard. “Our years of restoration experience came into play as we worked to restore 700 Broadway to its former glory.”

Approximately 900 pieces of terra cotta were tagged, removed, catalogued, organized, cleaned, and repaired mostly in the basement of the building. They then were reinstalled in their original locations on the building’s two street front facades. Several hundred additional pieces were repaired in place. Terra cotta bricks were salvaged wherever possible and new glazed bricks were ordered to best match the color, shape, and size of the old bricks.

“The restoration of this historic building required that we fully repair the façade of the 8th floor and return all stones and decorative heads to their exact location,” noted Michael Y. Ahearn, President at Seaboard. “Our crews catalogued each stone and head so that they could be properly reinstalled during the restoration process.”

In addition to its terra cotta work, the Seaboard team also replaced and repaired the 3rd floor stone balustrade railings using pre-cast concrete units that were molded to match the original ones. Seaboard also restored the sandstone entranceway, which required sculpting the repairs to match the original stonework.

“I was impressed with Seaboard’s knowledge, care, ability, and craftsmanship,” said Toscano. “They were proactive problem solvers and took the time and effort to make the building look as close to the original as possible.”
“The close-knit team of Seaboard craftsmen along with the architect and engineer always showed great respect for the building and the difficulty of the work involved. We understood the historical significance of the building,” added Flynn. “A building is a reflection of the people who build it, use it, and touch it; its personality is the sum of all of them.”