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Broadway Chambers Building
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Public Buildings Broadway Chambers Building

Broadway Chambers Building

Broadway Chambers Building

Stony Creek granite has a rare but elegant pink tone within the minerals that gives the stone a greater beauty than other stones of granite.  This pink color arrives from the minerals that the stone is composed of.  Stony Creek granite is made of potassium feldspar which contains a large amount of iron allowing the stone to give off the reddish color.  The unique color of the stone and location that it was quarried in allowed the stone to be used for many historic architectural projects.  Stony Creek is located in the small town of Branford Connecticut along the shoreline which allowed for easy transportation of the stone.  The stone was easily transported because ships were able to enter the harbor, pick up the materials that were needed for the project and then transport the stone to other towns along the east coast.  Projects such as the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Battle Monument at West Point were all constructed with the pink granite from the Stony Creek quarry.  Cass Gilbert was a famous architect that was thought to have been the pioneer of skyscrapers.  He began in Minnesota and eventually brought his work to Chicago, New York City, Cincinnati and many other places along the United States.  The first building that Cass Gilbert constructed in New York City was the Broadway Chambers Building.  The Broadway Chambers Building was constructed in 1900 on 277 Broadway Street between Broadway Street and Chambers Street.  The base of the building is composed of Stony Creek Granite, whereas the rest of the building is constructed with terra cotta and brick.

The granite that was used in the construction of the Broadway Chambers Building originated from the Norcross Brothers Quarry.  The Norcross Brothers were contractors from Massachusetts whose company was known for private residences, educational structures, churches and railroad stations.  In 1887, the Norcross Brothers decided that it was in the best interest of the company to purchase a quarry where they would be able to extract the materials that they needed on their own instead of getting the stone through a broker who would raise the price of the granite before selling it to them. By the 1900’s the Norcross Brothers had employed 200 men to work the quarry and had invested in the proper tools and machinery to develop the quarry and to begin marketing the granite.  The Norcross Brothers Quarry was one of the largest quarries in Stony Creek and became known for the mining and finishing methods that were used. The quarry used its own railroad line which transported the granite to other parts of town which then distributed the materials to project locations.  Osborn Hall on the Old Yale Campus was constructed with the granite from the Norcross Brothers Quarry as well as many other well known projects.  Eventually, the Dodd’s Granite Company bought out the Norcross Brothers and kept it up until 1929.  The Castellucci family purchased and reopened the Norcross Brothers Quarry in 1955 and maintained the business for 20 years until the economy and business declined and they sold the quarry to the Town of Branford.

The majority of workers that were employed by the quarries in Stony Creek were the Italian, English, Swedish, Irish, German, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants that came to the quarries because of the all the employment opportunities.  Along with the employment opportunities the quarries supplied the workers and their families a residence which varied in size depending on the employees’ pay scale. All of the benefits that were offered to the quarrymen encouraged them to travel closer to the areas where quarry work was common even though the risks that came along with the job were high.  Since the workers were using all kinds of machinery to extract the granite there were many times when employees’ lives would be in danger.  According to town records many accidents occurred in the quarries such as drowning, skull fractures, falling derricks and many other life threatening illnesses.  The jobs that the quarry workers held were blacksmith, carpenters, derrickmen, engineers, powdermen, quarrymen, stonecutters, and tool boys.  The job title that employees were given depended on their ethnicity and the amount of time they had been employed with the company.  It is known that the Italians were thought to have been the most artistic group of people out of all of the immigrants so they were given the higher paying jobs because the quarries thought they would accomplish better looking work in a faster amount of time.  In order for the granite to be extracted there needed to be a larger number of men working because it took a lot of time and energy to cut the stone away from the quarry.  A member of each job category was needed in the extraction of the stone for the Broadway Chambers Building because every job had its own importance to the team of quarrymen.

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Along with the work of the quarrymen at the Norcross Brothers Quarry the construction of the Broadway Chambers building gathered workers from all over.  The construction was overseen by the George A Fuller Company which had worked alongside Cass Gilbert before on other projects in the Chicago area.  The George A Fuller Company was run by George Allen Fuller and was a well known construction company based out of Chicago.   The Broadway Chambers Building was both Cass Gilbert and George Fuller’s first piece of architect to be done in New York City.  The George A Fuller Company invested $100,000 into the construction of the building and helped Edward R. Andrews establish a loan for the other $400,000 needed to construct the Broadway Chambers Building.  Once the financial aspects of the project were taken care of Cass Gilbert was able to begin the design of the building.

Gilbert wanted the Broadway Chambers Building to be considered a skyscraper and an architectural beauty so he planned out the building to be 18 stories high. In the planning of the building he arranged for it to resemble the style of a Chicago School building which was a unique quality that he brought to New York because people had never seen it before and it also allowed Gilbert to incorporate technical features in the building from where Gilbert had done most of his work.  Since Gilbert was familiar with the concept of the Chicago School building he was able to include more detail into the exterior of the building.  Gilbert used three different materials to construct the building; granite, terra cotta, and brick.  The lower level of the building was constructed of granite from the Norcross Brother’s Quarry.  Gilbert built the ground level of the Chambers Building to resemble columns from the Greek era and had the “Chambers Building” inscribed in the frieze above.  On the other three sides of the building he placed circles in the frieze above the columns and granite that resembles garland on each corner.  This pattern is illustrated all the way to the third floor where he began to use the brick up to the top.  On the very top of the building he used a beige terra cotta which was not common architectural material in the 1900’s.  After the Chambers Building was finished Gilbert was praised for the design and architectural skills that were incorporated in the construction of the building and in 1992 the Broadway Chambers Building was nominated as a landmark.

Gilbert and the George A Fuller Company decided on the placement of the building because the location was beginning to flourish into a well populated area of the city and they felt that the placement was an important part in what they wanted the building to symbolize.  The Broadway Chambers Building was designed to be used as a commercial office building.  To this day it is still an office building but the design has been altered slightly.  The retail stores that are located on the ground level are now owned by Feldman Realty Group and have changed since the original construction of the building.  One of the sides of the building that used to be shops has been converted to a maintenance entrance but besides that the building is in its original structure.

The Broadway Chambers Building has had a profound impact on the American society.  The construction of the building alone has provided immigrants a place to live and a job to support their family while the architectural techniques used allowed the building to be designated as a landmark in American history.  Cass Gilbert’s work with Stony Creek granite is what allowed the Broadway Chambers Building to be nominated because of the rare color and eloquent looks.  With the help of the George A. Fuller Company and Edward R. Andrews, Cass Gilbert was able to create his dream of a Chicago school style skyscraper in New York City that will be remembered as a work of art to all that see it when they walk by it on the street and to the family members of those that helped construct the magnificent work of art.mce_markermce_marker



 References

"Broadway Chambers Building." Welcome to Flickr - Photo Sharing. 1992 NYCLPC Landmark Designation             Report, 16 Jan. 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.             .

DeFord, Deborah. Flesh and Stone: Stony Creek and the Age of Granite. Stony Creek, CT: Stony             Creek             Granite Workers Celebration/Leete's Island, 2000. Print.

Kidder, Frank Eugene. "Building Construction and Superintendence." Google Books. Web. 10     Oct. 2011. .

"National Register of Historic Places." United States Department of the Interior National Park       Servic. Oct. 1990. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.     .
"Splitting Stone with Feather and Wedge - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 9 Nov.       2009. Web.      21 Oct. 2011. .



Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 14:30  

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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

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.