New Directive From Archdiocese Is A Call To Arms Against Preservation

Last week the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued an order to pastors and religious officials baring all involvement in placing churches on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Patrick Hildebrandt, founder of the Philadelphia Church Project, says the rigid edict wages war on historic Catholic church survival and preservation.

Source: New Directive From Archdiocese Is A Call To Arms Against Preservation

How the Tent of Tomorrow Got its New Coat of Paint

Predicted by its organizers to be the “greatest single event in history,” the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair was indeed a spectacle. One of the most notable structures of the Fair, and one of the few that still stands, is the New York State Pavilion. Looking to create a symbol of progress and to show off the state’s status as host of the Fair, Governor Rockefeller commissioned Philip Johnson, who worked with structural engineer Lev Zetlin, to design the New York State Pavilion. The pavilion was in fact an assemblage of three separate structures: the open-air Tent of Tomorrow, three interconnected Observation Towers, and the circular Theaterama.

The Tent of Tomorrow was used for several years after the end of the Fair in 1965, first for music and art shows, then as the “Roller Round Skating Rink.” In the summer of 1974, the City closed the tent structure, citing the “hazardous condition” of the Kalwall roof panels. The multicolored roof panels were removed in 1976, leaving the structure in more or less its current state.

Although unused for over forty years, the Tent of Tomorrow is showing new life thanks to the work of New York area painters. The City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) who owns the structure, teamed with the New York Structural Steel Painting Contractors Association and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, Local 806 (Structural Steel and Bridge Painters of Greater New York) to complete a spectacular painting project during the summer of 2015.

Labor for the painting project was donated through apprenticeship programs of the trade groups. Funding to provide meals for the crew during the work was raised through crowdsourced funding. The paint job not only returns the steel elements of the Tent of Tomorrow to their original appearance, it also helps to protect the structure from continued corrosion and deterioration. The painting project is one step in the long process being undertaken by DPR and the borough of Queens to stabilize and hopefully one day restore the Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers of the New York State Pavilion.

Photos by Vertical Access.

Investigating and Understanding the New York State Pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers

In April of 2015, the Friends of NCPTT, the World Monuments Fund, the American Institute of Architects St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial partnered to jointly present a symposium on the preservation of Mid-Century modern structures in St. Louis, MO. This three-day event brought experts together to present an in-depth understanding of the history, use, and preservation of materials found in Mid-Century modern architecture.

Evan Kopelson, partner at Vertical Access and Nancy Hudson, associate at Silman,  co-authored the presentation Investigating and Understanding the New York State Pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers.  It gives an overview of the New York State Pavilion’s innovative design and engineering, describes the current condition of the Tent of Tomorrow and Observation Towers, highlights the importance of archival research in revealing construction methods and details, and addresses reuse challenges.  The entire presentation is available for viewing below.


About the Speakers

Nancy R. Hudson has 20 years of consulting structural engineering experience. Ms. Hudson joined Silman in 2005 and was named an Associate in 2007. Her projects include the restoration of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Restoration of New York City Hall and Restoration of Wyoming State Capitol. She is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) and the Association for Preservation Technology (APT). Ms. Hudson has a Master of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Evan Kopelson is an architectural conservator with over twenty years of experience in the documentation and investigation of historic buildings. He is Vertical Access’ partner-in-charge of teams performing existing condition surveys, in situ testing services, and the characterization of building materials and finishes on buildings and bridges. Evan is a member of the ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings, and is a professional associate of the American Institute for Conservation, having formerly served as secretary/treasurer of the AIC’s Architecture Specialty Group. Evan has also served as vice-president of the Western Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International.

More presentations from the symposium may be viewed on the NCPTT website.

You Can Help SAVE The Historic Hanging Flume!

The Hanging Flume is the most intact structure of its kind in the United States, and it is the only hanging flume in a condition suitable for preservation, education and interpretation. It illustrates the ingenuity and fortitude of the engineers and miners intent on extracting gold from the land. The Hanging Flume is a historically significant cultural resource recognized by:

  •  The World Monuments Fund – 2006 Most Endangered Sites list
  •   The State of Colorado – Most Endangered Places of 1999
  •   National Register of Historic Places

Time is Running Out to Document the Flume

The Hanging Flume is deteriorating as a result of the ongoing effects of exposure to the elements, falling debris and rock slides, and scavenging. The threat of losing key segments of the flume means the time is now to investigate and document remaining sections before the evidence is gone forever. Previous expeditions have documented approximately 10 percent of the remaining sections of the Hanging Flume. At each location, different construction configurations were discovered. The urgency for conducting this project now is that undocumented segments may contain key information on the construction of the Flume that will be lost as the 130-year-old structure continues to deteriorate.

What We Need & What You Get

Your contribution will help the Interpretive Association of Western Colorado send a team of experts to document additional remaining sections of the flume. The original project team that has made expeditions to the flume and produced technical reports over the past decade is ready to conduct the next phase of investigative work. To get the team to the flume, we only need to raise $20,000 more in order to match over $140,000 already raised!

Contributions at any level are greatly appreciated. Contributors at the $50 level will receive a copy of the 60-minute DVD film about the Hanging Flume, “The Best Kept Secret of the Wild West.” Please share our campaign with your network to make an even greater impact!

Learn more and get involved here.

Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse Restoration Receives Lucy G. Moses Award

On April 30, 2015 the New York Landmarks Conservancy presented their annual prestigious Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards for outstanding preservation projects in New York City.

Vertical Access is proud to have been part of the team that received recognition for the restoration of the Conrad B. Duberstein U. S. Courthouse in Brooklyn, NY.


Project Team
General Services Administration
Goody Clancy & Associates
Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Jablonski Building Conservation
Nicholson & Galloway
Preservation Design
Robert Silman Associates
Vertical Access


Learn more
The New York Landmarks Conservancy
General Services Administration
Traditional Buildings Magazine

Team Collaboration Key to Success on Toronto Heritage Building Envelope Project

A recent article in the Daily Commercial News describes the process of rehabilitating historic buildings – called heritage buildings in Canada – and mentions Vertical Access’ investigation of One King West, the former Dominion Bank Building in Toronto, Ontario. The article recaps a seminar presentation by Sarah Gray, managing principal with Halsall Associates, our client for the One King West project.

Ms. Gray highlighted the importance of archival research, testing, and inspection in the early stages of a repair or rehabilitation project. For One King West, Vertical Access provided a hands-on inspection and documentation of building conditions using TPAS™, the Tablet PC Annotation System. TPAS is now being used for the construction administration of the rehabilitation of One King West, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of the software for a variety of documentation and reporting needs.

The article, entitled “Heritage envelope rehab a balancing act”, was written by Dan O’Reilly and was published on January 5, 2015.

Vertical Access technicians inspect the One King West building in Toronto

Vertical Access technicians inspect the One King West building in Toronto

In the News: Penn Station

An article by Michael Beschloss in the New York Times, entitled A Place That Made Travelers Feel Important, recalls the 1963 demolition of Pennsylvania Station and hints at the possibility of a new Penn Station. The loss of Penn Station was a watershed event in the historic preservation movement, influencing the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and contributing to the preservation of countless other structures.

The article describes the financial situation that drove the decision to demolish the station: the Pennsylvania Railroad was losing money in the 1950s, and fearing a continued decline of passenger rail travel, the railroad’s executives decided to lease the site to the Madison Square Garden Corporation, which replaced the station’s grand public spaces with a new arena atop the existing platforms.

Mr. Beschloss includes architectural historian Vincent Scully’s oft-quoted observation comparing the old Penn Station with its current incarnation: “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

A sign that a new and more worthy Penn Station could be in the making is the fact that in 2013 the New York City Council voted to extend Madison Square Garden’s zoning permit for only 10 years. With the current station barely able to meet current demand, perhaps economic forces will once again shape a Penn Station that makes travelers feel, if not godly, then at least important.


For more about Penn Station’s past and future:

A new play retells the demolition of Penn Station against a backdrop of historic images:

The Municipal Art Society of New York challenges leading design firms to envision a new Penn Station:

“Capitol” Projects

Capitols are among our favorite types of buildings to work on, and since our first investigation of the Massachusetts State House twenty years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting ten of them – eight state capitols in addition to the U.S. Capitol and Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building. Earlier this month, Vertical Access returned to the Michigan State Capitol, where we first worked in 2005 with Quinn Evans Architects and The Christman Company.


Kent inspects the drum of the Michigan State Capitol in 2005.

The last major restoration of Michigan’s capitol was completed in 1992, and the purpose of our 2005 visit was to see how the paint coatings and materials were holding up at the drum, dome and lantern. Nine years later, with over twenty years elapsed since the 1992 restoration, we once again made the trip to Lansing, Michigan to inspect the dome. This time, there were also reports of water infiltration. Returning with the same project team, technicians Evan Kopelson and Keith Luscinski surveyed the dome, drum and lantern using TPAS™ (Tablet PC Annotation System) to document existing conditions for an upcoming repair project.

Do all of the state capitols have domes?

All but twelve of the fifty state capitols have an exterior dome (original plans for both the Ohio and New York State Capitols included domes that were never built). Many early state capitol buildings in the United States were topped with domes inspired by examples from Europe and ancient Rome. The U.S. Capitol dome, completed in 1866, set the standard for the state capitol domes that would follow. Most of the current state capitols were built after 1866, and the national capitol’s massive cast-iron dome had a strong influence on many of them.

Access challenges

It can be difficult to gain hands-on access to all of those domes and cupolas. Fixed ladders, access hatches, and windows usually provide a way to reach the exterior of a dome lantern or cupola, where we can set up anchors for rope access drops. But some buildings have no access systems in place, like the Wyoming State Capitol, where we hauled a heavy 40-foot ladder into the dome in order to climb to the top. Even with these challenges, using industrial rope access for domes, cupolas, and towers is fast, efficient, and economical compared to other means of access.

NJ before and after

The New Jersey State House before restoration (left, during VA’s 1996 investigation) and after restoration (right, during our 2013 visit).

Capital projects for capitol buildings

Monumental public buildings often have monumental price tags for restoration, with deferred maintenance being a major cost driver. Some of the challenges for building professionals working on state capitols include ever-changing occupant needs, increased standards for safety and security, accessibility, energy efficiency, and technology upgrades. Facilities maintenance was put on the back burner during the Great Recession, but many states are now moving ahead with repair and restoration projects. State capitols in the news for recent, ongoing, or planned repair and restoration campaigns include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, OregonSouth Dakota, and the U.S. Capitol.


A few of the conditions we’ve documented on capitol buildings.

Vertical Access’ “capitol” projects at a glance


Inspecting the U.S. Capitol dome. Photo by Jon Reis Photography.

United States Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1793 (William Thornton, Stephen Hallet), 1795-98 (George Hadfield), 1798-1802 (James Hoban), 1803-1818 (Benjamin Henry Latrobe), 1818-1826 (Charles Bulfinch), 1850-68 (Thomas U. Walter, Montgomery C. Meigs)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron

Scope of work: VA conducted a hands-on inspection of all of the cast iron dome’s exterior from the base of the Statue of Freedom to the peristyle column capitals.

Project team: Office of the Architect of the Capitol


The Michigan State Capitol in 2005.

Michigan State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1872-1878 (Elijah Myers)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron drum and sheet metal-clad dome, lantern and finial

Scope of work: VA inspected materials and paint finishes at the drum, dome, lantern and finial.

Project team: Quinn Evans Architects, The Christman Company




Inspecting the New Jersey State House in 1996.

New Jersey State House

Dates and Architects: 1792 (Jonathon Doane), 1845 (John Notman), 1871 (Samuel Sloane), 1889 (dome, Lewis Broome)

Landmark Status: Contributing resource in a National Register Historic District

Materials: Cast iron drum and lantern and gilded copper dome.

Scope of work: VA coordinated site investigations and safe access for a comprehensive restoration completed in 1999. Our 2013 investigation included ultrasonic testing, paint adhesion testing, and fiber-optic investigation with live-feed video.

Project team: (2013) Preservation Design Partnership, H2L2 Architects, Building Conservation AssociatesStephen McLaughlin Roofing Consulting (1996) Jan Hird Pokorny Architects & Planners, Robert Silman Associates, Vulcan Supply, Gold Leaf Studios, Preservation Architecture, Mazia/Tech-Com, Matthew J. Mosca, McKernan Satterlee Associates, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities



Documenting the roof trusses of the New York State Capitol.

New York State Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1867-1875 (Thomas Fuller), 1875-1883 (Leopold Eidlitz, Henry Hobson Richardson), 1883-1899 (Isaac G. Perry)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Iron roof trusses, iron and glass skylights

Scope of work: VA surveyed the trusses supporting the massive roofs, performed water testing and fiber-optic investigation, and provided client access to skylights.

Project team: (2003-2004) Robert Silman Associates, (2006) Simpson Gumpertz & Heger




Inspecting the gilded copper dome of the Massachusetts State House.

Massachusetts State House

Dates and Architects: 1795-1798 (Charles Bulfinch and Charles Brigham), 1917 (Sturgis, Chapman & Andrews)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Sheet copper

Scope of work: VA surveyed the dome, which was gilded in 1874 and had been painted many times since then. The dome was restored and re-gilded following VA’s investigation.

Project team: Goody, Clancy & Associates; Gold Leaf Studios




Keith inspects the Wyoming State Capitol.

Wyoming State Capitol

Dates and Architects: 1886-1917 (David W. Gibbs, William DuBois)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Cast iron, galvanized sheet metal, sheet lead, and gilded copper

Scope of work: VA conducted a 100% hands-on survey of the drum, dome, and lantern exterior, characterized the materials used at various locations, assessed the condition of paint coatings (including adhesion testing and removal of samples), and identified prior painting campaigns.

Project team: HDR Architecture, Preservation Design Partnership, Robert Silman Associates, GB Geotechnics USA


WV courtesy SHCA

Investigating the gilded dome of the West Virginia State Capitol. Photo by Swanke Hayden Connell Architects.

West Virginia State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1932 (Cass Gilbert)

Landmark Status: Contributing resource in a National Register Historic District

Materials: Gilded sheet copper and lead

Scope of work: VA performed an exterior condition survey of the dome and cupola.

Project team: Swanke Hayden Connell Architects



The interior rotunda dome of the Virginia State Capitol.

Virginia State Capitol

Date and Architects: 1785 (Thomas Jefferson, Charles-Louis Clerisseau)

Landmark Status: National Historic Landmark

Materials: Plaster, wood

Scope of work: VA provided access consulting for interior lighting of the capitol’s rotunda.

Project team: Hillier Architecture



Checking out the pediment sculpture at the Kentucky State Capitol.





Kentucky State Capitol

Date and Architect: 1905-1909 (Frank Mills Andrews)

Landmark Status: National Register of Historic Places

Materials: Limestone and granite

Scope of work: VA provided access and assisted in performing an exterior condition survey.

Project team: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.


Kelly inspects the Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building.

Newfoundland and Labrador Confederation Building 

Date and Architects: 1960 (Lawson, Betts, and Cash, with A.J.C. Paine)

Materials: Limestone and brick

Scope of work: VA conducted a hands-on survey of the limestone masonry, hammer-sounding each unit, and used non-destructive evaluation to identify blind delamination within limestone units.

Project team: Jokinen Engineering Services






This video from the Architect of the Capitol about the U.S. Capitol dome restoration includes photographs from VA’s condition survey.


All photographs by Vertical Access except where noted otherwise 

When the World Went to Queens: Part 1

By Kristen Olson


The Near Tomorrow


The Unisphere in 2011. Photo by Vertical Access.

We are now living in the future envisioned at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, which opened 50 years ago last week and attracted over 50 million visitors to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. With the theme “peace through understanding,” the fair promised a utopian, technologically-driven “near tomorrow.” For many fairgoers, especially those who were children when they attended, the playful, exuberant architecture had as much of an impact on their expectations for the future as did exhibits promising undersea colonies and driverless cars.


World’s Fair souvenir tin tray. Photo by Kristen Olson.

Despite plenty of criticism, the visiting public’s response to the fair was overwhelmingly positive. With the fair’s 50th anniversary, people across the country and across the globe have been sharing their World’s Fair memories. We’ve gathered here some memories of the fair from the Vertical Access family:

Evan’s father, Eric, was at the fair before it even opened. In 1963, he had a summer job with a surveying company inspecting construction work on many of the pavilions. One that Eric remembers was the Bell Telephone pavilion, which was designed to look like a giant telephone handset on two cradles.  He says that the contractors were working very quickly to meet their deadlines; at that time, the fair’s opening day was less than a year away.

Julie remembers being hungry and hot while attending the fair with her family at age 10, but also remembers the anticipation of waiting in line to see General Motors’ Futurama II exhibit and being amazed by the huge stainless steel Unisphere.

Franny’s most vivid memory is of standing on a “people mover” and slowly gliding past Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Our bookkeeper, Chris, went to the fair and, several years later, saw Led Zeppelin perform at the New York State Pavilion.



The Panorama of the City of New York as it appeared in 2007. This 1:1200 scale model of New York City was one of the most popular attractions at the fair. It is currently maintained in the collection of the Queens Museum. Photo by Kristen Olson.


For more World’s Fair memories, check out recent articles in Architectural Record, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Daily News.

Read Part 2 where we take a closer look at the New York State Pavilion, one of the fair’s most memorable architectural creations, and one of the few structures from the 1964-65 fair still standing in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

When the World Went to Queens: Part 2

By Kristen Olson


Showcasing New York State

The 1964-65 New York World’s Fair was timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of New York City (or more accurately, the city’s capture and renaming by the British). In representing the fair’s host state, the New York State Pavilion would stand out as one of the most memorable pavilions, earning praise from architectural critics who dismissed much of the fair’s architecture.


The Tent of Tomorrow as it appeared in 2011. All photos by Vertical Access.

Designed by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster with structural engineer Lev Zetlin, the New York State Pavilion consisted of three components. The Tent of Tomorrow was an overt reference to a circus tent in the form of an elliptical, cable-suspended roof of colored plastic panels supported by concrete columns. Its roof was the largest of its kind in the world, and its floor was a huge terrazzo road map of New York State – purported to be the world’s largest map as well as the world’s largest terrazzo installation. Theaterama was a circular concrete theater designed to show films in 360-degrees. Completing the complex was a group of three connected Astro-View observation platforms, the tallest structure at the fair at over 200 feet.


The Astro-View Towers and Tent of Tomorrow.

After the Fair

The New York State Pavilion was one of the few structures to remain as part of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park after the fair closed. Theaterama continued to operate after being converted to a live event space, and it was renamed the Queens Theatre in the Park following a 1993 rehabilitation guided by Philip Johnson. The Tent of Tomorrow was used as a roller skating rink and concert venue until the roof panels were removed in the 1970s. The Astro-View Towers were retained, but were not made accessible to the public after the fair.


The underside of the lowest of the three platforms, which housed a snack bar during the fair.

Now, after being abandoned for decades, the Tent and the Towers are in need of repair. A coalition of dedicated preservationists has built broad public support for the pavilion’s rehabilitation, with inclusion on the World Monuments Fund’s annual Watch List of the World’s 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2008, and listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The pavilion is also on the U.S. Register of the International Committee for the Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO). Grassroots organizations promoting the preservation and reuse of the Pavilion include People for the Pavilion, and the New York State Pavilion Paint Project.


The three observation towers as seen from below.

Increased attention from the fair’s 50th anniversary has bolstered preservationists’ efforts. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the pavilion a National Treasure  on the 50th anniversary of the fair’s opening. This program brings attention to culturally-important landmarks that are threatened with deterioration and demolition, helping to catalyze public support and funding for their rehabilitation. On the same day, the Tent of Tomorrow was opened to the public for a few hours – for the first time in almost thirty years – with thousands lining up for a chance to don a hard hat and spend a few minutes inside the pavilion. Most significantly, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz supports rehabilitating the structures, and recently formed a task force to develop rehabilitation and reuse plans with guidance from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

World’s Fair Events

The Queens Theatre is currently hosting exhibits and events celebrating the fair’s 50th anniversary, including a depiction of fair buildings titled The World’s Fair in Legos. For more anniversary events, check out See striking before and after photos of the pavilion at the AIA’s Architect magazine blog.

Vertical Access works on the Astro-View towers in 2011. The tallest platform, at over 200 feet, provided panoramic views from two decks.

Vertical Access first performed work at the New York State Pavilion in 2006, and our team has returned several times to assist with existing condition surveys and lighting replacement, in collaboration with The Sparks Electric Company, RTKL Associates, Acuren, and Robert Silman Associates. The Pavilion is owned by the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation. For more information, see our project profiles for the Tent of Tomorrow and the Observation Towers.