Celebrating 85 Years
Founded in 1931, Universal Builders Supply, Inc. (UBS) has worked on some of the country’s most recognizable and treasured structures. Each generation of this three-generational company has had a pet project to be proud of, starting with the Empire State Building, one of the few construction jobs in New York City during the Depression, to Yankee Stadium, the Washington Monument, and the Statue of Liberty. To celebrate it’s 85th year in 2016, UBS posted 85 Fun Facts about some of the most iconic and historic building projects. Here they are:
Post 21: AT&T Building / Sony Tower, NYC
Designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, UBS provided a dual personnel/material hoist for the construction of the AT&T Building which began in 1979 and finished in 1984. Framed in steel, the 648-foot tower was clad in glass and constructed with 13,000 tons of granite. This post modern skyscraper was the first of its kind at the time, but controversial for it ornamental top and mocked for looking like a Chippendale cabinet. It’s now the Sony Tower and a cherished standout on the NYC skyline.
Post 22: Battery Park World Financial Center (Building A), NYC
This once-prosperous port area of downtown Manhattan was known as Little Syria with Lebanese, Greeks, Armenians throughout the 19th & early 20th centuries. Occupied by dilapidated shipping piers, the idea to reclaim this area through landfill was proposed early 1960s. The landfill was completed by 1976 using over 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center, the NYC Water Tunnel, as well as from sand dredged from New York Harbor off Staten Island. Construction of Battery Park City began in 1980s when UBS provided access scaffold for the installation of the winter garden and construction hoists necessary for the enormous project that was completed in 1988.
Post 23: Citicorp Center, NYC
UBS furnished and installed a personnel/material hoist for the construction of the 59-story Citigroup building in 1974. The 59-story building, completed in 1977, is one of the most distinctive in New York’s skyline thanks to a 45° angled top and a unique stilt-style base. The roof slopes because it was originally intended to contain solar panels to provide energy. The idea was dropped because the positioning of the roof did not face the sun directly.
Post 24: Canary Wharf, London,UK
London’s Canary Wharf is a major business district located in Tower Hamlets, East London. Canary Wharf takes its name from No. 32 berth built in 1936 for the Canary Islands fruit trade. Where once the Isle of Dogs was the thriving heart of maritime trade it is now a global hub of the financial markets, home to many of Europe’s tallest buildings. UBS provided 22 hoist cars and six material hoists in addition to access scaffold for this huge project, which began in the 1990s but not completed until 2011 due to a delay caused by the economic downturn.
Post 25: The Mormon Temple, Washington, DC
The Mormon Temple in Washington DC is the first temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) east of the Mississippi since 1846. The tallest of its six spires supports a statue of the prophet Moroni and are coated in 24-carat gold. The tops of four of the Temple's spires were knocked off and fell to the ground during an earthquake in 2011. UBS designed a free standing scaffold from a cable braced beam assembly below allowing cleaning without touching the spires.
Post 26: American Museum of Natural History, NYC
The life-size 94-foot, 21,000-pound model blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History suspended overhead in the Hall of Ocean Life was renovated in the early 2000s. First constructed in the mid-1960s, the blue whale model originally went on display in 1969. UBS provided access scaffold so workers could restore it to its original splendor.
Post 27: Lincoln Center / Alice Tully Hall, NYC
Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall was named after Alice Tully, a New York performer and philanthropist whose donations assisted in the original construction of the hall in 1969. She played an influential role in the design of the hall—meticulous about color choice and insistent that there be ample space between the rows of seats, so concertgoers of all heights could be comfortable. Tully Hall required special insulation because of its location within 22 feet of the subway tunnel under Broadway. UBS provided all of the sidewalk bridge, hoisting and protection during the renovation and expansion of Lincoln Center, which was completed in 2009.
Post 28: Barneys New York, NYC
The iconic department store Barneys first opened in Manhattan in 1923, when founder Barney Pressman pawned his wife’s engagement ring for $500 in order to lease a 500 square-foot space at 7th Ave & West 17th Street. In 1993, Barneys moved from its 7th Ave flagship to the current 230,000 square-foot, 9-story, Kohn Pederson Fox-designed store on Madison Avenue at East 61st Street, making it the largest new store in NYC since the Great Depression. UBS constructed an outside shell of scaffold that stepped inward like on a huge layer cake, to access all the setbacks to the roof. The new façade and setbacks were re-bricked giving a total face lift to the building.
Post 29: Lyceum Theater, NYC
Opened in 1903, The Lyceum Theatre has the distinction of being one of the three oldest surviving Broadway venues (along with the Hudson and New Amsterdam Theaters), the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in New York City, and the first Broadway theater granted landmark status in 1974. It is one of the few theaters in New York to operate under its original name. UBS installed scaffolding along the front elevation, above the elaborate marquee. The scaffolding gave access to all the features of the ornamental façade, for cleaning, and repair. Although it has three levels, it is one of the smallest Broadway theaters in terms of capacity, seating only 950.
Post 30: Old Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
The original Yankee Stadium opened in the Bronx in 1923 and was hailed as a one-of-a-kind facility at the time for its size. Nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built” after legendary baseball superstar Babe Ruth, the stadium subsequently underwent many alterations over the years, and closed for renovation from 1974 to 1975 to improve its deteriorating condition. UBS provided scaffolding from the lower bleachers to the underside and front of the upper bleachers. Repairs were made to the trademark Yankee parapets, on the outside perimeter of the upper deck. In 2006, the Yankees began building a new stadium on public parkland adjacent to the stadium, which opened to the public in 2009 using the same name. The previous site was demolished and converted into a park called Heritage Field.
Post 31: Perry’s Victory, Put-in-Bay, OH
A 352-foot monument and the world’s largest Doric column, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is located in Put-In-Bay, Ohio and rises over Lake Erie, just five miles from the longest undefended border in the world. It commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most significant naval battles to occur in the War of 1812. Located on an isthmus on the island, the Memorial also celebrates the lasting peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States that followed the war. During the restoration, UBS crews stayed on nearby South Bass Island and took a ferry to the Memorial each morning.
Post 32: Beekman Tower - 8 Spruce Street, NYC
8 Spruce Street was originally known as Beekman Tower, and is now called “New York by Gehry.” It is one of the tallest residential towers in the world, and it was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere at the time of opening in February 2011. UBS provided two hoist tower complexes. The north complex consisted of a dual hoist tower on a common platform with runways into the building and the west complex consisted of three dual hoist towers and common platform with runways to the 77th floor. Each saw-toothed shaped floor was different from the one below it, making tying the hoist towers to the building a challenge. UBS provided the Cocoon perimeter protection enclosure which was cranked up the outside perimeter of the ever-changing façade, as the building grew, keeping the workers on the roof safe at all times.
Post 33: Woolworth Building, NYC
The Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway in NYC was commissioned by Frank Woolworth in 1910. Originally designed as a 20-story office building, it opened in 1913 at 60 stories with an ornate, cruciform lobby, covered in Skyros veined marble, with a vaulted ceiling, mosaics, a stained-glass ceiling light, and bronze fittings. UBS provided scaffolding around the entire top of the steeple to replace the copper roof and to reconstruct the four corner roof tourelles during the renovation of its façade in the early 1980s. UBS engineered a special triangle-shaped bracket for the scaffolding that was placed on the gutters at street level. Custom made trussed outrigger beam supports were mounted on the u-shaped mansard roof at the 30th floor, which suspended work platforms to access the facades of the building.
Post 34: Four Seasons Hotel, NYC
The Four Seasons Hotel New York opened in 1993, and at 52 stories, it was the second tallest hotel in NYC, and the fourth tallest in the USA. The hotel is known for its luxurious interiors and stunning views. UBS provided scaffolding to the outside perimeter of the crown of the building, supported by long cantilevering spliced beams. These beams were in the shape of a cruciform on all sides of the building supporting the scaffold, allowing the new large projecting glass bay walls to be built and anchored to the new slabs.While working on a restoration project for the hotel, UBS was especially conscious of the aesthetics of the construction creating the most sophisticated sidewalk shed in the company’s history by using extra slim posts and black paint.
Post 35: Church of Saint Agnes, NYC
Established in 1873 and originally designed by Lawrence J. O’Connor, the Churc of Saint Agnes in NYC was originally intended to serve Italian laborers working at Grand Central Terminal. The church famously hosted Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s radio and television broadcasts for over half a century, an important influence for reshaping mainstream 20th-century American attitudes on Catholicism. After a fire completely gutted the entire nave and roof leaving only the outside shell walls, UBS installed perimeter scaffold on both the inside and outside to give access to the workers and provide crucial support until repairs reinforced the walls and the new roof. The new building was patterned after the Church of Il Gesù in Rome and retained two surviving towers from the original church.
Post 36: Central Synagogue, NYC
NYC’s Central Synagogue was built in 1872 in the Moorish Revival style as a copy of Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue. Designed by Henry Fernbach, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in New York City and one of the leading Reform congregations in the USA. It was designated a NYC Landmark in 1966 and a National Historic Landmark in 1975. The building was restored in 2001 after an accidental fire ignited the roof in August 1998. Though the roof and its supports were destroyed as a result of the fire, UBS’s shoring kept the building standing during restoration. The marble plaques on the north wall of the foyer honor the firefighters of NYFD's 8th Battalion for saving the skeleton of the building, the exterior walls, all the windows on the main and gallery floors, and the rose window on the east wall over the choir loft.
Post 37: Cleopatra’s Needle, NYC
Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. New York’s needle was a gift from the Egyptian government, and was erected in Central Park in 1881. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with the Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. In 2007, the Central Park Conservancy examined the obelisk and determined repairs were needed. UBS then constructed special scaffolding that allowed for the restoration of the monument.
Post 38: Mission Church, Boston, MA
The Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a Roman Catholic Basilica in Boston, and is commonly known as “The Mission Church.” It was first built in 1870 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Constructed in the Romanesque style, it features one of the first organs in the country to successfully use electricity. The Basilica is located on Tremont Street, almost at the center Mission Hill, serving the descendants of Irish immigrant families, in addition to newly arrived immigrants from Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Haiti. UBS provided scaffolding from the ground to the top of the spires on the front of the Basilica so workers could access the spires for much needed repair work.
Post 39: Kykuit (aka the John D. Rockefeller Estate), Pocantico Hills, NY
Kykuit—also known as the John D. Rockefeller estate—is a Classical Revival-style villa that was completed in 1913 for John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company. Designated as a National Historic Landmark during 1976, the historic site features dramatic grounds designed by noted architect William Welles Bosworth; interiors by leading designer Ogden Codman Jr.; and an underground private art gallery featuring works by Picasso, Calder, Warhol, and other prominent artists. Kykuit was renovated and modernized during 1995, enabling the estate to accommodate group tours. UBS installed overhead protection at the main entrance and a deck around the mansard roof so workers could access the roof for needed repairs as well as major infrastructure changes of the first floor and art gallery, and a reconfiguration of third and fourth floor staff quarters into guest suites.
Post 40: The Plaza Hotel, NYC
One of the world’s most luxurious hotels, The Plaza Hotel opened in NYC in 1907 at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. A room was $2.50/night, the equivalent of $63 today. Construction of the 20-story building (a skyscraper back then) took two years at a cost of $12 million. Designer Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was tasked with creating the opulence of a French chateau, and as a result 1,650 crystal chandeliers were purchased, and the largest single order in history for gold-encrusted china was placed with L. Straus & Sons. After being purchased by Donald Trump in 1988, the Plaza underwent a $50 million dollar renovation for which UBS furnished and installed a hoist.