Remade in Manhattan

An Upper East Side stalwart gets a renewal of stone and masonry.


NEW YORK – The façade restoration of historic Christ Church United Methodist in New York won a special honor recently with a a 2020 International Concrete Restoration Institute (ICRI) Award of Merit in the masonry category. And, while the award for Western Specialty Contractors – New York Metro Branch recognizes the concrete work with the structure, the work encompassed plenty of stone care.

In 2018, Western’s crew, alongside project architect Kate Groob, RA and principal Thomas Fenniman, RA from Thomas A. Fenniman Architect took on the task of restoration Situated on Park Avenue at East 60th Street, the structure's design by noted church architect Ralph Adams Cram combines Romanesque and Byzantine Revival styles.

While the church holds a fashionable corner in Manhattan, it also went up during the tough early days of the Great Depression; most of the building was completed by 1933, but final interior work wasn’t completed until after World War II. In the 21st century, the brick and limestone church was showing signs of wear-and-tear and deterioration. Several of its brick corners had cracked and precariously pulled away from the building; its plaza on Park Avenue needed to be replaced and made ADA compliant; and grout between its limestone and brick was missing or damaged. Western’s skilled workers performed masonry repairs, repointed all of the stone to stone mortar joints and removed and rebuilt the failing masonry corners, amongst several other repairs. In total, Western performed work on approximately 19,000 ft² of the church’s total 28,000- ft² façade.

“One of the greatest challenges on this project was ensuring that the new masonry matched the existing,” said Western New York Metro Senior Branch Manager James Norberg. “Understanding the historical significance of this structure, we went the extra mile to source masonry samples from several distributors in the Tri-state area and performed loose laid mock-ups on site. “After several modifications, we achieved the desired result by utilizing three brick colors with the darker browns removed from the blend and salvaged bricks mixed in their place.”

In addition to the façade repairs, the church also needed to replace its 580-square-foot plaza. The previous plaza was flat with steps going up to both the front- and side-door entrances. This required the church to use a temporary metal ramp, which was an eyesore and not an ideal solution. Western began the plaza replacement by removing the existing plaza down to the concrete deck, then installed the waterproofing system, which consisted of 2-ply Siplast torch-down waterproofing, drain mat, rigid insulation board, and filter fabric.

Lastly, the setting bed, pavers, limestone planter, ramp, steps and curb were installed to complete the plaza replacement. To match the existing plaza, the same stone material of Crab Orchard sandstone was sourced from Tennessee. The $1.8 million project took just over four months to complete. Family-owned and operated for more than 100 years, Western Specialty Contractors is one of the the nation’s largest specialty contractor in masonry and concrete restoration, waterproofing and specialty roofing. Western is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., with 30 branch offices nationwide and employs more than 1,200 salaried and hourly professionals.