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New York Telephone Building

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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New York Telephone Building

NY Telephone Building


 The New York telephone building is also known as the Barclay-Vesey Building, which sits at 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan NY.   The building is currently used as a location for the Verizon Company however is under reconstruction using Stony Creek granite as the more stable and supportive base after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks brought down the World Trade Center neighboring the Barclay-Vesey building.  The building was created by the architect Ralph Walker, from Waterbury Connecticut, who was a part of the McKenzie, Voorhees and Gmelin architect firm which had previous experience in building telephone buildings.

The project began in 1923 and was completed in 1927.   The site was chosen because of the inexpensive pricing when compared to high value of Broadway property which would have been better for location’s sake.  The New York Telephone company, run at the time by Howard Ford Thurber as president, was greatly expanding during the period after WWI and therefore needed a central point in which the offices could be located. 

The goals for the project were to be able to accommodate the present expansion of the company and any future needs and therefore would be a very large project.  The plans were supposed to be able to house over six thousand employees and 120,000 telephones.  The president was aware that by creating a very large structure he would portray the company as very strong and powerful as well as a symbol of modern technology. 

The central location was determined to be able to bring together the company and unify it.  Ralph Walker was influenced by the Finnish architect Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen’s design which was called art noueveau and included a vast range of color, form, and materials with innovative structures, and set out to create a building that would become an essential part of the New York skyline.  He determined after a lot of thought and estimations of costs that the most economical way to make such a large building would be to create a 32-story infrastructure.  The building occupies 52,000 square feet of a city block.  Ralph Walker is quoted in the telephone review of 1926 as stating “It was Emerson I think who told us to stop building the sepulchers of our fathers and to build our own house.  The Barclay-Vesey building is an attempt to build a house of today.  A house that is not Greek or Gothic or Mayan; it looks a little to the past, much to the present, and tries to glimpse to the future”.  The Art Deco project that had a concentration on vertical design, geometric shapes, and naturalistic elements resulted in creating an influence of future projects that were created in the city. 

            The solid horizontal base of the trapezoidal building that Walker designed in the 1920’s however was deeply damaged on September 11, 2001 when the planes collided with the World Trade center adjacent to the Barclay-Vesey building.   The building had been kept up to date with growing needs for new technology however the original aspects of the building had remained largely untouched.  With the fall of the World Trade Center buildings and the immense crash they created the telephone building sustained large gaping holes which needed to be fixed. 

In order to ensure a more sturdy and strong base Stony Creek Granite is being utilized as the main building material with great workability.  The structure was originally created to be extremely elaborate with beautiful carvings so that the architecture could be appreciated from far away and from up close, near the waterfront.  The exquisite design earned Ralph Walker a partnership in the firm after McKenzie passed on.  The intricate workings made it difficult to rebuild after the destruction and damage that occurred.  The carvings had to be refurbished and some limestone carvings were damaged beyond repair and needed to be recreated. 

            New contractors were brought onto the project to recreate the building so that it would be structurally fit and restored to its former glory in the famous NYC skyline.  The Tishman Construction and Petrillo Stone Corp of Mount Vernon, NY worked together on the project.  The two companies brought in the best artisans in the required fields such as Bob Carpenter and Michael Orekunrin for the stone carving.  They depended on what had survived the attacks and used the basis to recreate the two facades that were ruined using stony creek granite as a base. Pictures were used as a comparison for recreation. 


The new limestone was quarried by Victor Oolitic Stone Company of Bloomington, IN and was decorated in the fashion of the original building that was designed to be unconventional and complex in texture and design, using sandblasting tools to carve in the images of babies, animals, and a bell to signify the telephone company.  Approximately 500 cubic feet of Stony Creek Granite was used for the base of which all of it was quarried in Connecticut by Granicor, a Canadian firm. Granicor subleased from Peter Jarowey, who bought the Stony Creek Quarry from the Castelluccis in 1986. The granite was supplied through Furlong and Lee of New York.  The Petrillo Corporation is in charge of installing all the new stone that was supplied.

Other buildings in New York City were more recently built with Stony Creek Granite, such as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company Building, and Grand Central Terminal.  The original building of the Barclay-Vesey Building did not utilize the wonders of building with the pink Stony Creek Granite, however was rebuilt with it as a base.  The Statue of Liberty also takes advantage of the strength of Stony Creek Granite as its base, and the monument has lasted for over a hundred years.


With the immense success of granite usage not only for strength but for beauty as well, the use of the material was imperative to the reconstruction of the Barclay-Vesey Building.  According to Flesh and Stone on pages 155 and 156, Phillip Johnson revamped use of the stone when he built the American Telephone and Telegraph Company Building in 1979, and Grand Central Station has been standing strong and beautiful since 1913.

The Barclay-Vesey Building was a beautiful structure well known for its intricacy and architecture.  The decision to use Stony Creek Granite as a new base provided the strength needed as displayed by Grand Central Terminal and the beauty that is needed to fully portray the infrastructure.  The stone was a great choice for the reconstruction of the building; it allowed for the structural needs to be met and for the significance on the outward show of the building to continue to be portrayed. It allowed for the two aspects of strength and ornate beauty to incorporate themselves with each other to rebuild the site to its former glory, if not even better with the integration of the stony creek granite source.

Further Research

http://www. granicor. com

http://www. stonecontact. com/company/Granicor-Inc-_30666. htm

http://www. volimestone. com/


http://www. neighborhoodpreservationcenter. org/db/bb_files/B010. pdf

In Masterpieces of American Architecture: page 193 has an inner layout plan and the source has additional pictures


Bing birds eye view of the Barclay Vessey Building

Works Cited

Dupre, Judith.  Skyscrapers.  New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2001.  Print pgs 34-36

Hoak, Edward Warren. , and Willis Humphrey.  Church.  Masterpieces of American Architecture: Museums, Libraries, Churches, and Other Public Buildings.  Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002.  Print pgs 183- 193.  

Department of City Planning, ed.  "Barclay-Vesey Building. " Landmarks Preservation Commision (1991): 1-34.  Print.

http://www. nyc-architecture. com/LM/LM070. htm

Last Updated on Monday, 08 November 2010 13:50  


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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
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Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.