Page C1.1 . 16 October 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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A Lobby Restored

by ArchitectureWeek

For more than 50 years, the lobby of a historic New York office tower had concealed a secret. Hidden above a "modern" drop ceiling with harsh fluorescent lighting was an ornate, inlaid plaster ceiling.

In September 2002, the ceiling's year-long restoration was completed. It was part of the midtown Manhattan building's complete renovation, commissioned by leasing and managing agent Joseph P. Day Realty Corporation. The magnificent lobby interior has now been uncovered, repaired, and returned to public view.

The building, 10 East 40th Street, formerly Chase Tower, is across the street from the New York Public Library. It was designed in the 1920s by Ludlow & Peabody, the architecture firm that also designed the New York Times Building (229 West 43rd). The drop ceiling was installed during a 1950s-era "renovation," and the glory of the original lobby was temporarily forgotten. Then recently, after needed modernization work had been done on the rest of the building, the painstaking task of restoring the 15-foot- (4.6-meter-) high lobby ceiling was finally begun.

It was difficult to find artisans with the required plasterwork skills because so few ceilings of this type still survive. Another challenge was to repair the more than 50 holes gouged into the artwork in the 1950s when supports for the drop ceiling and ductwork were simply hammered through the ornate plaster.

Fortunately, craftsmen from L & M Studios were identified as capable of performing the plaster repair. Enough sections of the old ceiling remained intact to allow them to create plaster castings of the original patterns to replicate throughout the ceiling. Artisans from Kessler Restorations then matched the colors of the original patterns and hand-painted and gold-gilded every detail in the nearly 2000-square-foot (186-square-meter) ceiling. Replacement chandeliers were designed based on research into historic patterns and on the recollections of a long-time tenant.

As one admires the restored lobby, it is fascinating to contemplate the now-unfashionable choices behind its 1950s "modernization" and to speculate about further historic treasures that may still remain hidden in Manhattan.

Project Credits

Property Management: Joseph P. Day Realty Corporation
Leasing Agents and Owner¹s Representatives: Timothy Farrell and Richard Brickell
Project Coordination: Paxhia Design
Plasterwork: L & M Studios
Painting and Gilding: Kessler Restorations
Marble Restoration: Carl J. Terranova & Sons
Chandeliers: Crenshaw Lighting

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ArchWeek Image

The restored lobby of 10 East 40th Street, formerly Chase Tower, Midtown Manhattan.
Photo: Christopher Wesnofske

ArchWeek Image

The lobby with its 1950s-era drop ceiling.
Photo: Courtesy of Joseph P. Day Realty Corp.

ArchWeek Image

The restoration reparied the plaster and marble finishes and replaced the chandeliers.
Photo: Christopher Wesnofske


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