PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Seaboard Weatherproofing & Restoration recently completed restorations on The Public Theater, a Manhattan landmark that had been the first building in the original New York Public Library System and today maintains its reputation as a leading cultural institution.
While The Public Theater has served many functions throughout its nearly 160 year history, it exploded onto the theater scene in 1967 with the world premier of the musical Hair. While programming flourished under owner and impresario Joseph Papp, the building progressively showed signs of its age.
"The Seaboard team carefully planned the logistics of this project in a way that allowed us to adapt to daily changes in the condition of the job site," said Jim Gradt, Seaboard senior project manager. "Throughout the project, as with all our projects, Seaboard balanced the vision of the architect and conservator with the logistical challenges involved in restoring this type of historical landmark."
The Romanesque revival building holds a distinguished place in New York history. It was designed in the 1850s by German-born architect Alexander Saeltzer and built by William B. Astor, who funded two subsequent expansions from 1856 to 1869 and 1879 to 1881. Originally serving as the private Astor Library, the building became the first in the original New York Public Library system upon its 1895 merger with the Lennox Library and Tilden Trust. It served several functions before being purchased by Joseph Papp in the mid-1960s. The Public Theater was designated a New York City Landmark in 1965.
Seaboard craftsmen employed several different methods for restoring the brick and brownstone facade. Damaged sections of the brownstone facade on the building’s Lafayette Avenue side required a combination of repair and replacement, along with masonry repointing. Seaboard brought in a team of brownstone craftsmen from Brooklyn, who carved the challenging stone work in place. Large stones that could not be repaired were cut into small blocks and repurposed for Dutchman repairs elsewhere on the facade. Extremely damaged brownstone blocks were replaced with matched precast concrete replications that were fabricated to match the original facade. The final stage of the two-year project consisted of comprehensive weatherproofing to help protect the facade for years to come.
Project members included Building Conservation Associates, Polshek Partnership Architects (now Ennead Architects LLP), engineers Robert Silman Associates and construction manager Westerman Construction Co. Inc.