Terra Cotta Dome Restoration
New York, NY
St Bartholomew’s Church
Lucy Moses Award
“The deskgn and installation of a specialized scaffold system, plus our kwig-storied history of restoring historic structures, were key in securing the St. Bart’s dome contract,” says Graciano Corporation president Glenn Foglio.
Like many Graciano projects, the restoration involved a beloved land-mark, technical challenges, superlative craftsmanship, and meticulous project management.
Construction of St. Bartholomew’s on Park Avenue began in 1918. Architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue completed mast of the design work before dying in 1924. His successors at Goodhue Associates conceived the distinctive ‘Great Dome” that eventually capped the Idly transept.
By the early 2000s, many parts of the Romanesque-Br-Intim church and its adjacent Community House were overdue for repair or restoration. The dome was a high priority; full access to its exterior would require a dense cage of scaffolding. But conventional scaffolds and rigging would impose unacceptable stress on the lightweight shell.
After a painstaking survey, during which Graciano steeplejacks rappelled down and across the exterior taking samples and measurements, “We devised a one-of-a-kind solution We’d suspend the scaffolding from above, so no part of it would come in contact with the dome.” Instead, a complex system of chain-supported decks, catwalks, and platforms would provide workspace within easy reach of the dome’s eight segments. The whole web of wood and steel would rest on the projecting corners of the square tower that supports the dome.
Once they had a solid foothold, the Graciano team got on with the program:
- Removing deteriorated cementitious and terra cotta cladding
- Installing steel-reinforced waterproof mortar
- Recreating the original mosaic tile patterns
- Repairing or replacing selected masonm stone, and terra cotta rod riles
- And completing every task in compliance with demanding historical specifications. (St. Ban’s is a designated New York City landmark and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.)
“If you look at the dome from the Waldorf Astoria across the way, everything you see came off — right down to the structural slab.” says Mr. Foglia “Terra cotta tilts; gilded orb and crass the heavy limestone ribs between the sections. Keep in mind that the dozen or so stones that make up each rib weigh almost a ton apiece.”
“We more than fulfilled this contract. I’m proud dour team for the innovative scaffiAding design that provided our craftsmen with a proper work platform while not imposing any weight or steel components on the dome,- Mr. Foglio says. “Well done!”