Gallery Restoration Reveals Ghosts of the Past

Renee BarnesNews

We recently completed with the National Park Service a study of the historic interior and a pilot restoration project of one of the building’s main galleries. The pilot project corrected decades of interventions, including removing stains and other unsightly discolorations from the marble as well as an accumulation of oil paint and spatters.

The eight week process revealed the gallery’s prior use as office space through the ghosts of former partitions present on the newly bare piers and pilasters. These faded vertical and horizontal lines on the marble, marking the faces of former partition walls, can be attributed to interventions dating to the 19th century. These include the buildings first transformation in 1862 from a U.S. Custom House to a Sub-Treasury─ where steel-mesh partitions were installed─ and post Sub-Treasury in 1920, when several federal agencies were housed on-site.

This project, made possible through a grant from the New York Community Trust to our Harbor Conservancy, also included a survey of the historic windows and other marble and glass elements and yielded recommendations for future restoration and maintenance.