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Thread: Federal Hall National Memorial

  1. #1

    Default Federal Hall National Memorial

    (National Park Service)

    New York Times
    March 18, 2004

    Federal Hall Is Uplifted, First by Steel, Then by Art


    Birthplace of the Republic. Cynosure of Wall Street. Cradle of the Renaissance?

    Federal Hall National Memorial marks the spot on which George Washington was inaugurated. It sheltered 300 people on Sept. 11, 2001, an event that literally shook the building to its foundation. And more recently, it has provided a civic forum for World Trade Center plans and designs.

    Beginning in October, it will also become the downtown branch of the Uffizi.

    As part of the Splendor of Florence festival that is to be staged throughout Lower Manhattan, the Uffizi Gallery will lend 22 paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. All but one will be portraits of the Medici family. The lone exception and star of the show - perhaps set by itself in the column-bordered rotunda of Federal Hall - will be the newly restored "Madonna della Gatta," by Federico Barocci.

    "I believe this is the blockbuster that will open peoples' eyes to the glory of Federal Hall," said Debra Simon, executive director of the arts and events program at the World Financial Center at Battery Park City. The center's principal owner, Brookfield Properties, is a sponsor and host of the festival.

    Federal Hall, a 162-year-old Greek Revival landmark at Wall and Broad Streets, is undergoing a renaissance of its own. Last summer, a dangerously undermined corner was shored up. Later this year, two other corners and part of the east wall will be shored up. Cracks will be stabilized and patched. And a new heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system will be installed.

    The $16 million rehabilitation can be traced directly to the attack on New York.

    "We have severe cracks in the infrastructure, which had existed prior to 9/11, but 9/11 exacerbated the cracking" of interior and exterior walls, said Joseph T. Avery, superintendent of Manhattan sites for the National Park Service, which runs Federal Hall. One of those fissures, in a basement storage room, had grown ominously in the wake of the attack. "What had been a pinhole was big enough that you could put your thumb in," Mr. Avery recalled.

    The park service called in the architectural and engineering firm Einhorn Yaffee Prescott. One of the attention-grabbing exterior cracks was at the corner near Pine Street. Formerly a hairline, it was now closer to a quarter-inch wide.

    "It seems to have been the seismic event of the collapses that triggered the cracking," said Marie Ennis, an engineer and the firm's principal in charge of the project.

    Because the building is rigid masonry and is surrounded by subway and utility lines, it had been threatened by vibrations and settling soil for many decades. Indeed, the rumbling of passing trains can be felt through the hall. Ms. Ennis said the investigation of attack-related damage afforded the chance "to figure out, once and for all, what all the problems were at Federal Hall."

    Working with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, the architects brought in ground-penetrating radar. What they found at one corner shocked them.

    "There was no soil, but 24 inches of air, under one of the columns," Ms. Ennis recalled. "I lost a lot of sleep when we found that air void." The solution was to insert four steel pilings about 60 feet deep down to rock.

    The next round of underpinnings will take the form of mini-caissons made of a concretelike grout that is injected in cavities drilled by a special rig.

    "Once that's done, we'll work our way up the building," Ms. Ennis said. Parts of the marble facade may be cleaned. Depending on conditions, the project is expected to take about a year. At times, Federal Hall may have to be closed to the public.

    Built on the site of the Federal Hall in which Washington was inaugurated, the current building served originally as the Custom House and then as the United States Sub-Treasury. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has used it in recent years to unveil plans for the overall trade center site, as well as the final designs for the Freedom Tower and the "Reflecting Absence" memorial.

    "It has, in many ways, re-established itself as the center of Lower Manhattan," said Kevin M. Rampe, president of the development corporation, which contributed $250,000 toward the $1.2 million cost of the festival.

    As for day-to-day events at Federal Hall, a treasure that many New Yorkers still manage to overlook, Mr. Avery said, "We're thinking about a broad range of enhancements and a broadening of programs." The park service, he said, is searching for a curator "because we'd like to fill the place" with exhibitions.

    For six weeks this fall, that will not be a problem.

    Twenty-two paintings from the Uffizi will go on view on Oct. 1 and remain until Nov. 15. "We consider this an extraordinary event, because the Uffizi doesn't lend easily," said Ms. Simon of the World Financial Center.

    The centerpiece of the loan is a sweet and tender work by Barocci, who died in 1612, having "enjoyed a greater popularity and exerted a more profound influence on the art of his time than any of his contemporaries," said The Dictionary of Art (Grove, 1996).

    In the painting, a very sleepy-eyed infant Jesus is being rocked in a cradle by Mary. Within the folds of her robe, a mother cat nurses a kitten. Joseph stands before them at left. On the right is the young John the Baptist, with his parents, Elizabeth and Zachary.

    Other works coming from the Uffizi include portraits of members of the Medici family by Frans Pourbus the Younger, Justus Sustermans and Tiberio Titi.

    The Medici portraits are meant to emphasize the tradition of art patronage and craftsmanship in the Splendor of Florence festival, which will run for 10 days beginning Oct. 1. Seven artisans - ceramicists, carvers, jewelers, lacemakers - will set up shop around the Winter Garden, in the World Financial Center, with exhibits and demonstrations. There will be tastings of Tuscan food, performances, concerts and a series of films set in Florence.

    The festival, founded by Joyce Acciaioli Rudge, was first presented in Providence, R.I., in 1999 and then in Philadelphia in 2001, an event delayed by the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Fund-raising for the New York festival is about $200,000 shy of the final goal, Ms. Simon said, an amount that corresponds roughly to the cost of shipping, insuring and guarding the paintings. That works out to $10,000 each and sponsors are being sought to adopt the artworks.

    "It's a wonderful, specific thing that people can do," Ms. Simon said. "Someone can say, 'I brought that painting over.' "

    A detail from "Madonna della Gatta," by Federico Barocci.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    Federal Hall has been closed for a long while now, right?

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Stern
    Federal Hall has been closed for a long while now, right?
    According to the National Park Service, Federal Hall is open each weekday from 9 to 5.

  4. #4


    September 24, 2006
    Streetscapes | Wall and Broad Streets
    A Landmark Will Reveal Its Treasures Once More

    The present building’s severe Doric-style exterior gives way to a much richer domed interior.

    A MARBLE TEMPLE Alexander Jackson Davis’s 1833 sectional drawing of the New York Custom House, now the Federal Hall National Memorial, at Wall and Broad Streets. George Washington took the oath of office on this site in 1789.

    NEXT month, the little marble jewel box at Wall and Broad Streets will reopen after a two-year project to correct structural problems worsened in 2001 when the World Trade Center collapsed.

    When the building was finished in 1842, it was the New York Custom House, but it is now known as the Federal Hall National Memorial, after the building it replaced. George Washington took the oath of office there in 1789, so the monument is a moving and eloquent tribute to the young Republic, even though the building was sullied by politics in its own time.

    The custom house’s design by Alexander Jackson Davis, an influential architect in the classical style, was the winning entry in an 1833 competition. During the seven years of construction his design was altered somewhat, but the completed building remains close to his original conception, a severe Doric-style temple housing a much richer domed interior. The combination evokes both the democratic ideals of Athenian Greece and the majesty of the Roman Empire.

    In 1834, The New-York Mirror said it might well be the most beautiful building in the United States, far more so than government buildings like City Hall (1812), where “the front is deformed with a mass of gingerbread work.”

    When the building was used for customs business, the domed interior had a central counter where importers conducted their transactions. The 16 Corinthian columns encircling the room were executed with “unparalleled grandeur and beauty,” The New York Commercial Advertiser wrote in 1842.

    The custom house provided a trove of political patronage. In 1852 the building figured in a satirical print by Edward Clay, which showed a pyramid of corruption titled “The Seven Stages of the Office Seeker.” After scrambling up to secure his position from a party boss, the successful office seeker is shown arrogantly strutting across the top of the pyramid directly in front of the custom house.

    In 1862, customs transactions were moved elsewhere, and the building was taken over by the Sub-Treasury, which held gold and cash owned by the United States (the sub-treasury system was established in 1846 to prevent favoritism in selecting private banks to hold federal deposits). “It was like a 19th-century Fort Knox,” said Michael Callahan, a Park Service ranger who gives tours at the old custom house. The large amounts held in the building led to incidents like one in 1877 when Herman Pietsch, a 22-year veteran of the Sub-Treasury, was charged with having stolen a lump of gold worth $5 from a crucible. (Mr. Pietsch said an enemy had put it in his pocket.)

    Similarly, in 1915 William B. Tanner, a teller in what was called the minor coin division, admitted having embezzled almost $4,000 — nickel by nickel. Over a two-year period, he said, he had substituted pennies for nickels in coin bags.

    Despite such thefts, The New York Times reported in 1917 that the vaults of the Sub-Treasury were nearly overflowing, with $519 million in gold bars, plus coins and currency. In 1920 the Sub-Treasury was absorbed into the Federal Reserve Bank, and it moved out of the custom house a few years later.

    For a time the building was used as a passport office, and in 1929 The Times reported that “a score of motion-picture operators took posts on the steps” to film the street crowds during the “tidal wave of selling” when the stock market crashed on Oct. 24.

    Ten years later, the United States designated the old custom house a National Historic Site, not for its own sake but because of Federal Hall, the 18th-century building that had occupied the site.

    Exhibits were set up, and the building is now administered by the National Park Service, along with other Manhattan sites like Grant’s Tomb and Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace on East 20th Street.

    James Pepper, the parks service superintendent in Manhattan, said that the Federal Hall National Memorial would reopen with limited hours on Oct. 6. More information is available from (212) 825-6888 or Two exhibits are to open in October, one on the national park sites of greater New York and one on Sept. 11 memorials around the country.

    Although this pristine little temple closed only in 2004, chances are that most New Yorkers have not been inside in years, if at all. The steep stairway facing Wall Street is a daunting climb. But the ascent leads to one of New York’s most wonderful interiors, a great open circle ringed by fluted columns supporting some of the richest Corinthian capitals in the city. There is a soft, smooth trough in the marble floor pavers around the central counter, worn by the shoes of thousands of 19th-century importers.

    The basement could be a German Expressionist set in a Fritz Lang movie, a brooding, low-ceilinged space with a circle of squat columns supporting the floor above. But the second floor, a balcony around the rotunda, permits close-up views of the voluptuous column capitals.

    There are also details like the unusual offset cross-vaulting on the curved balconies, and lovely little knob-sized recesses inthe stone walls allow the doors to swing completely open.

    And this level brings you closer to the high, soaring dome: as inspirational a government interior as any other in New York.

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  5. #5


    A magnificent building:

    Glad to see it re-open.

  6. #6


    If I'm not mistaken, that is a perfectly classical doric facade, with fluted columns, triglyphs and guttae adn everything...Isn't the pediment a bit flattened, though, relative to the width, I men?

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Luca View Post
    If I'm not mistaken, that is a perfectly classical doric facade, with fluted columns, triglyphs and guttae adn everything...Isn't the pediment a bit flattened, though, relative to the width, I mean?
    This one's a pretty standard late Doric treatment, possibly based on the Theseion (449-444 BC).

  8. #8

  9. #9


    The other side of Federal Hall.

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