The 50-story MetLife Building occupies a full city block in Midtown Manhattan, from Madison to Park Avenues and from 23rd to 24th Streets. The building’s stone clock tower was designed by Napoleon LeBrun and Sons and built between 1906 and 1909. It was closely modeled on the Campanile at the Piazza San Marco in Venice and features a 24-foot diameter face with a glass mosaic tile background on each of its four sides.  Each numeral is made of bronze-framed glass, now backlit with new fiber optics. 

As masonry contractor for the full-scale restoration of this building, Graciano Corporation: cleaned, pointed, replaced, patched and stabilized both limestone and marble; replaced lintels; and cleaned and reset mosaic tile in the clock faces.

Since the building is a New York City landmark and National Historic Landmark, the restoration project required strict compliance with local, state and federal guidelines for historic preservation.  

The building was originally constructed of New York State Tuckahoe marble, which is no longer readily available. During major modernization and repair efforts in the 1960s, some marble was replaced with Alabama limestone in the corners and where cornices were removed. That mix of materials meant that Graciano was required to match many different colors of stone and mortar. Additionally, all work had to be carefully planned not to interfere with daily work at the bustling headquarters of MetLife.
Erecting and dismantling 50 stories of scaffolding is no easy task either.  To prevent damage to the building, some stone had to be removed so that the scaffolding and the hoist could be secured to the inner framework of the building. To this end, the New York-based General Contractor, StructureTone and Graciano together reviewed several different scaffolding methodologies and work scenarios to determine the most efficient and effective solution. 


Project Manager Stacy Albanese of Building Conservation Associates commented that the project was extremely labor intensive, requiring great attention to detail and the use of techniques that are centuries old. “Graciano’s workmanship was terrific,” she added.

Project Details

Name: MetLife Building
Completion Date: 8/1/2001
Owner: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
Architect: Robert Silman Associates
General Contractor: Structure Tone, Inc.
Others: Gordon H. Smith, directing restoration of the clock
Historic Architect: Building Conservation Associates


Project Included

  • Water Cleaning
  • Unit Stone Replacement
  • Structural Steel Repair/Replacement
  • Stonework
  • Stone Patching
  • Stone Facade Pinning
  • Sealants
  • Repointing Masonry
  • Pressure Washing
  • Poultices
  • Masonry Surface Rehabilitation
  • Masonry Cleaning
  • Lintel Replacement
  • Individual Brick Replacement
  • Flashings
  • Dutchman Repair
  • Chemical Cleaning
  • Brickwork
  • Alkaline Cleaners
  • Acidic Cleaners
  • Abrasive Cleaning

Glossary Terms

WaterproofingIt’s important to waterproof concrete structures to keep moisture out of the facility and to protect the structural components of concrete and imbedded reinforcing steel. If the integrity of the concrete is maintained, it can remain waterproof. Polyurethane is considered one of the best waterproofing materials. It can be applied seamlessly and penetrates the surface deeply and evenly. The polyurethane membrane will fill in even the finest cracks in concrete, reducing its water absorbency capacity. Many types of waterproofing systems can be used depending on your home’s structure Urethane Foam or Epoxy InjectionUrethane Foam or epoxy injection is a cost-effective and permanent way to stabilize and seal cracked or compromised masonry surfaces. Depending on the size of the crack, urethane foam or epoxy is injected into the void and allowed to cure. Once hardened, these materials help form a stable subsurface to support masonry restoration operations. Tuck PointingTuck pointing entails removing loose or cracked mortar from brickwork or stone installations and replacing its new mortar to ensure structural integrity and to seal out damaging water and moisture. Mortar for tuck pointing must be carefully selected to ensure that its color and texture of the new mortar closely matches the existing material that was not compromised and did not need to be removed. Terra Cotta Replacement and RepairTerra cotta is a building material that is cast from clay and then glazed. Terra cotta components add great color and detail to a building, but are also highly susceptible to cracking and damage from impacts or freeze and thaw cycles. In many cases, damaged terra cotta sections must be removed and replaced with new materials to prevent water infiltration and structural damage. Replacement components must be created to replicate the design of the original piece, as well as the coloration that is acquired as the surrounding pieces age. Frequently, it is necessary to repair and stabilize the structural underpinnings that support a terra cotta installation, as corroded pins or structural supports can cause further damage as time passes. In cases where a terra cotta component has sustained minor damage, it is often possible to perform repairs on the piece without removing the compromised element from its installation. Masonry RestorationMasonry restoration involves the repair of existing masonry materials or the complete replacement of damaged materials with new or reclaimed bricks or stones. Color and texture matching are key considerations in masonry restoration, as an accurate match can make areas of restored stone or brick blend in seamlessly with existing materials. To achieve an accurate color and texture match, it is frequently necessary to return to the original brick manufacturer for replacements, or to the original stone quarry where material for the existing stone components was cut. Masonry CleaningMasonry cleaning entails the removal of dirt, debris, paint, and graffiti from various surfaces of masonry structures. Commonly used masonry cleaning techniques include high and low – pressure washing and chemical cleaning. Regardless of the method used, special care is taken to avoid over cleaning – and possibly damaging – aging masonry surfaces. GroutingGrouting is used to seal the spaces between masonry installations such as tile or terra cotta. Grout may be colored to blend with the masonry materials, or can be used to create contrast within the masonry design. Grout is typically applied by hand by filling the joints with material and then troweling it out over the adjoining tile or terra cotta. Once the grout has set, a craftsman returns to the area that was grouted and removes any excess material from the face of the installation. As grout is frequently porous, it must be sealed once it is completely dry to protect it from dirt infiltration. EIFS CleaningExterior Insulation and Finish Systems cleaning, also known as EIFS cleaning, involves removing dirt and grime from the exterior surfaces of structures clad in Dryvit or other types of stucco–like materials. To avoid damaging the thin exterior skin of these structures, mild cleaning agents and low–pressure water is most frequently used to dislodge surface dirt. Manual cleaning is also used to remove dirt in hard–to–reach areas or intricate detail. CaulkingCaulking is used to seal gaps between masonry surfaces, such as brick or stone, and other architectural elements, including window and door frames, decorative hardware or lighting fixtures. Caulking is most often applied with a gun, and is available in butyl, latex or customized formulations. The color of caulk is selected to match the surfaces surrounding the application site. When applied, the caulking gun is inserted in the gap to be filled. Caulking material is then injected into the void to seal the opening.