Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY

Recounting Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s Work On Louis Sullivan Restoration Projects

Louis Sullivan is one of the most innovative architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries whose distinct style of architecture helped define American culture. Sullivan is known as the “father of modernism,” his outlook on design and influential work helped distinguish American buildings and architecture as separate from classical or gothic building styles that were brought over from Europe.

Many of Sullivan’s famous skyscrapers are clad in sculptural terra cotta masonry. Since Boston Valley began manufacturing architectural terra cotta in 1981, we have recreated terra cotta masonry for several famous Louis Sullivan buildings. This blog is a compilation of the restoration work that we’ve done for Sullivan-designed buildings to maintain their iconic façades for future generations.

Guaranty Building — Buffalo, New York

Located in Buffalo, NY, the Guaranty Building is one of the finest examples of Louis Sullivan’s architectural body of work. The column-frame structure, originally known as the Prudential Building, was completed in 1896; the Guaranty building is one of the world’s first skyscrapers and continues to be an inspiring example of American architecture. In the 1980s Boston Valley undertook one of their first significant restoration jobs, restoring the terra cotta masonry on the famed skyscraper with restoration architect, Flynn Battaglia.

Guaranty Building, Buffalo, NY, is clad in terra cotta masonry. Boston Valley worked with Flynn Battaglia to restore the façade.

The Guaranty Building is located in Downtown Buffalo — the exterior is unique as it features highly detailed patterns and decoration.

Gage Building — Chicago, Illinois

In 2017, Boston Valley worked on the Gage Building in Chicago, Illinois, recreating the detailed masonry located at the top of the structure. While the Gage Building is more simple than Guaranty, the signature decorative masonry still exemplifies the ornate stylings of Sullivan’s architecture. Complex, highly detailed masonry was created using the hand press forming method in order to capture the details precisely. Once the form is created, Boston Valley sculptors in the finishing department go in by hand to complete the masonry, adding final touches like undercuts and subtle textures.

Masonry in production for the Gage Building at Boston Valley Terra Cotta

New and old masonry for the Gage Building was placed side by side for reference in the Boston Valley production facility.

Old Home Bank — Newark, Ohio

Located in Newark,  Ohio, the Old Home Bank is one of eight banks designed by Louis Sullivan. The structure is known as ‘The Jewel Box Bank’ and is known for its detailed masonry and colorful mosaic. The building has undergone some significant transitions over the years due to changes in ownership — most recently, the former bank was donated to the Licking County Foundation, and once the restoration is complete the building will be the home of Explore Licking County.

Boston Valley worked with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to create the detailed terra cotta. Masonry units were fabricated using the hand press forming methods to create detailed pieces and the RAM Press was used to create more simple masonry units. After first being formed, units are completed by our sculptors to ensure that the finest details are preserved and recreated faithfully to the original design.

Old Home Bank, Newark, Ohio, Terra Cotta Masonry, Restoration, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Rogers Krajnak

Masonry on the exterior of the Old Home Banks shares some similarities to the Gage Building’s facade.

Note: the image used above are owned by the Ohio Office of Redevelopment and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attributions 2.0 Generic License.

Bayard Condict Building, 65 Bleeker Street— New York, NY

The Bayard Condict Building is a Louis Sullivan designed structure located in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood. Construction on 65 Bleeker St. was completed in 1899 and it is notable for being the only building in New York City designed by Louis Sullivan. The decorative elements concentrated at the top of the building and at street level. The building is clad in white terra cotta masonry with the most detailed and sculptural elements focused on the luxurious entranceway, crown, and spandrels. The structural piers and pilasters feature more liner terra cotta, emphasizing the height of the building.

Boston Valley is manufactured terra cotta masonry for the facade at 65 Bleeker Street in New York City.

Details of the sculptural portal and crown at Louis Sullivan’s Bayard Condict Building at 65 Bleeker Street in New York City.

Note: the images used above are owned by the Einar Einarsson Kvaran aka Carptrash and Beyond My Ken, respectively, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Sullivan Center, 1 State Street — Chicago, IL

Louis Sullivan, Sullivan Center, Chicago Illinois is clad in white terra cotta masonry.

The white terra cotta façade of the Sullivan Center as seen from State Street in Chicago.

The Sullivan Center is one of the most noteworthy Sullivan works in the City of Chicago. Originally known as the Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company Building when it was constructed in 1899, the famous retail center has been a continuous destination for shoppers throughout its operation. Boston Valley is currently producing masonry for the restoration of The Sullivan Center, with approximately 250 pieces in our production facility. The replicas of the units for the Sullivan Center’s façade use a white glaze — our restoration pre-design services ensure that the surface treatment matches the original.

Note: the image used above are owned by Ken Lund and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Click here to read other blog posts about our work on Louis Sullivan buildings.