Nine years and $60m later courthouse sits proud again.
The Essex County Courthouse recently reopened its doors after the completion of a $60 million dollar restoration effort led by Tishman Construction of New Jersey as construction manager.
The palatial Essex County Courthouse, a Renaissance-style building, had sat vacant for 13 years in a state of disrepair.
Originally opened in 1906, the Courthouse was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, whose other notable works include the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. and the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan. It boasts ornamentation conceived by renowned artists William Low and Louis Comfort Tiffany, and features murals painted by Edwin Howland Blashfield throughout its interiors. The building's beauty, detail, and craftsmanship have warranted its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
For nearly nine years, Tishman has worked with Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch Architects LLC on behalf of the County, to divide the renovation and restoration into three phases.
Phase I: Tishman and its partners developed a space allocation program for the building's user group, the Civil Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, and undertaking a careful architectural and historical analysis of the existing building.
Phase II: The second part of the project addressed the exterior of the Courthouse to clean and restore its highly-detailed marble-and-limestone facade. During this process, Tishman oversaw the replication of missing and deteriorated decorative elements and the restoration of the structure's monumental wooden window frames. Nine marble statues on the entablature above the entrance were also cleaned and restored.
Phase III: The final phase of construction comprised a gut renovation and comprehensive interior restoration. Tishman managed the precise task of returning the 11 original, opulent, and individually-styled courtrooms to their former brilliance as well as the building's public spaces, which center around a four-story rotunda, wrapped by marble stairways, and topped by ornate Tiffany skylights.
Additionally, the team created a new courtroom on the first floor which was originally used for office space. Hundreds of surfaces were individually removed, cleaned (replicated when necessary) and replaced including stained glass window panes, chandeliers, capitals, brass railings, bronze grills and doors, plaster dental moldings, four types of marble, and polished oak and walnut moldings and doors.
The building's numerous hand-painted murals, which depict significant events in U.S. history, were brought back to life by Evergreene Painting Studios, a firm with which Tishman previously collaborated with to restore the landmark lobby at 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan. Artisans injected acrylic resin into the dilapidated murals to fill in cracks, reattached plaster to smooth surfaces, and repainted portions of the works to recreate their original beauty. The project also involved recasting much of the building's interior cornices, many which now gleam with new gold leafing. Additionally, historic furniture was restored, including more than 400 chairs, 175 benches, 35 tables and miscellaneous items such as widow openers, coat racks, and cabinets.
The end result is a spectacular achievement in construction, in art and in architecture.