Wachovia fix-up on South Broad

Posted: July 15, 2010

Building-trade workers from Brooklyn to Milwaukee have joined their Philadelphia union brothers from nine trades this summer in restoring the fire-blackened, gilded, hand-plastered ceiling four stories over the office floor at 123 S. Broad St., the flagship branch of the region's dominant bank, currently called Wachovia.

After April's electrical fire poured black smoke through the high halls, insurer Liberty Mutual agreed to pay "several million" to clean and polish the marble and bronze and re-gild the ceiling plaster, Joseph Eisenstein, vice president at landlord SSH Management L.L.C., told me.

Three floors of scaffolding should come down this weekend, revealing brightened ceiling and walls, said Scott Bamford of general contractor Hunter Roberts Construction Group L.L.C.

Wisconsin-based painter Will Kolstad said he had worked in Philadelphia before, on City Hall's intricate ceilings. His coworkers lifted gold leaf from round palettes using art brushes, looking more like professors at the nearby University of the Arts than veteran industrial painters.

Contracts are still being negotiated to replace the Nicola D'Ascenzo stained glass over the massive bronze doors to Broad Street, Bamford said.

It's been a stressful summer - "But you don't realize what you have until you suffer a bit of a loss," Eisenstein told me. "It's really been a revelation, the quality of the work in this building" from the 1920s.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com.

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