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Repairs and Local Law #11/98

55 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10005

A classic English Gothic tower, 55 Liberty Street was among the great skyscrapers of its time when designed by Henry Ives Cobb and built in 1910. Also known as Liberty Tower, this 33-story, 385-foot Gothic Revival structure showcases a slender and elegant profile reflective of many tall buildings constructed near the turn of the 20th century.

The building boasts historical significance, too. In the early 1920’s, it was home to the Sinclair Oil Company, whose Teapot Dome Scandal marred President Warren G. Harding’s administration. While company owner Harry F. Sinclair worked here, Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall, leased the oil fields of Teapot Dome, Wyo., exclusively to Sinclair without competitive bidding.

In 1979, long after the Sinclair scandal subsided, architect Joseph Pell Lombardi converted the Liberty Tower office building into a cooperative residential building with 87 apartments.

Almost 40 years later, restoration project architect Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC, and engineer Howard I. Shapiro & Associates entrusted Seaboard with a multimillion-dollar restoration project to repair and restore the terra cotta façade after almost 100 years of exposure to the elements.

As with other buildings constructed in the early 20th century, 55 Liberty was neither designed nor built with repair and maintenance in mind. The terra cotta façade included hundreds of different stone types, shapes and non-square angles that required meticulous attention to detail during repair and replacement. Seaboard Weatherproofing restored about 3,000 white terra cotta stones, gargoyles and other ornamental figures in the building’s façade, replacing and repairing stones that faded or cracked due to aging and weathering.

The building’s pitched copper roof made rigging and hanging scaffolding platforms difficult. To remedy this, Seaboard collaborated with Spring Scaffolding to develop and install a permanent, inconspicuous rigging system on the 29th floor, saving the owner hundreds of thousands of dollars on future renovation projects.

Throughout the process, Seaboard worked with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to inspect façades as required by New York City Local Law 11 and maintain the integrity of this landmark building.


Liberty Tower at 55 Liberty Street


Liberty Tower-handcrafted clay ‘DolphinTail’ before firing


Liberty Tower

Start Date: July 2007

Project Finished: December 2009

Project Highlights:

  • Repairing and replacing approximately 3,000 non-uniform white terra cotta stones, gargoyles and other ornamental figures on the building’s façade

  • Installation of a permanent scaffold and rigging system on the pitched copper roof to facilitate future restoration projects

  • Staging and executing the project safely in a very public Lower Manhattan location with a high volume of pedestrian and automobile traffic

Project Team:

Architect, Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC
Engineer, Howard I. Shapiro & Associates Consulting Engineers , P.C.
Scaffolding, Spring Scaffolding
Terra cotta, Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Restoration & General Contractor,  Seaboard Weatherproofing & Restoration Company

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