New York Public Library Project Earns Two Prestigious Preservation Awards

April 4, 2011
The dramatic restoration of the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street has earned two prestigious preservation awards. The New York Landmarks Conservancy will present a 2010 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award to the restoration team led by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE), on April 27, 2011, at the Church of St. Francis Xavier. The annual award celebrates projects, individuals, and organizations that contribute to the preservation of New York City. On May 12, 2011, the Preservation League of New York State will present the restoration team with a 2011 Excellence in Historic Preservation Award. The annual award honors individuals, organizations, and projects that exemplify statewide excellence in historic preservation. WJE served as the project's preservation architects and engineers.

The noted firm of Carrère and Hastings designed the library, which is considered a significant example of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. Construction was completed in 1911, and the library was designated a New York City landmark in 1967.

After years of exposure to acid rain, diesel exhaust, and pigeon guano, the library's facade was in dire need of cleaning and preservation. WJE was charged with surveying the building's exterior, making recommendations for treatment, and overseeing the restoration of the exterior in preparation for the library's centennial anniversary in 2011. The survey encompassed the marble facades, sculptures, windows, doors, roofs, and plazas. WJE identified more than 7,000 instances of deterioration or distress in the historic 150,000-square-foot facade. The delicately carved elements, including the Corinthian column capitals, lion head keystones, and scroll modillions, showed the most serious deterioration. The survey also revealed loose, cracked, and spalled balustrade elements; roof damage; severe oxidation and corrosion of the bronze windows, grilles, and doors; and deterioration of the fine art stone sculptures.

WJE conducted extensive laboratory and in situ testing to evaluate the existing materials and a wide range of potential restorative treatments in order to develop appropriate and practical restoration solutions. Over 2,000 individually carved marble dutchman repairs were installed to replace damaged pieces of the facade, and more than 200 gallons of concentrated soap was used to return the facade's Vermont marble to its brilliant white color. More than 20 exterior doors were restored, nearly 350 bronze windows were repaired and refinished, and about 38,000 square feet of roofing was replaced.

"Our goal in the restoration of this glorious building was to balance four factors: preservation of original material, cleanliness, safety, and cost," said WJE Project Manager and Senior Principal Timothy Allanbrook. "These sometimes contradictory factors influenced every decision, from the overall restorative treatments to the individual repairs on each piece of marble. All of us, from draftsman to craftsman, are extremely proud of this accomplishment, and I believe that the results speak for themselves. For me personally, this has been a career-defining project."

The three-year, $50 million project was completed on schedule and within budget. A February 2, 2011, unveiling of the restored facade kicked off a yearlong celebration honoring the building's centennial.

About WJE
Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. (WJE), is an interdisciplinary firm of architects, structural engineers, and materials scientists that specializes in the investigation, analysis, testing, and design of repairs for historic and contemporary structures. WJE focuses on delivering practical, innovative, and technically sound solutions across all areas of construction technology. Since the firm's founding more than fifty years ago, WJE specialists bring the collective experience gained from conducting more than seventy-five thousand investigations worldwide to every construction challenge. WJE combines state-of-the-art laboratory and testing facilities, nationwide offices, and knowledge sharing systems to provide solutions for the built world. For more information, please visit

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