Two Sets Of Scars

by Don Friedman on August 15, 2016

Historic preservation is not just about the buildings as physical artifacts, it’s also about how they relate to society. Scars of any kind are reminders of the past and I want to talk about two scarred structures.

First, the Liberty Street pedestrian bridge* over West Street (click to expand, for all of the photos):

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The bridge was recently extended two bays to meet up to the new elevated park on the left. A close up shows the contrast between the new metal-panel skin and the original from the 1980s:

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The two new bays on the left have new panels as does the last bay of the original bridge. The random new panels are where the old panels that were badly damaged** by falling debris on September 11, 2001 and therefore had to be replaced. A lot of the remaining old panels have minor dents and staining that has resulted from those dents trapping dirt. It is not publicly known whether the remainder of the bridge will be cleaned or have the old panels replaced to create a uniform appearance or if the scarred panels will remain.

Second, 23 Wall Street. This building was constructed as the headquarters for the J. P. Morgan & Company bank***:

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This building has been a designated landmark since the LPC was created and it exudes a sense of solidity. Seven years after its completion, one of the largest terrorist attacks in American History, the Wall Street bombing, took place immediately in front of it. The building was not severely damaged; the stone chips seen below were the result of the lead weights that were part of the bomb bouncing off its facade:

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The Morgan bank chose to leave the damage unrepaired, supposedly to emphasize how small the damage was. Since the damage was present at the time of landmarking, it is now legally part of the protected state of the building. I cannot imagine anyone saying today that the stone should be repaired to erase those scars. Given the number of people taking pictures of the scars at 23 Wall, I feel safe in saying that leaving the damaged metal panels at the Liberty Street bridge will seem more like an obvious choice the longer we wait.


*It was originally known as the South Bridge, but the North Bridge collapsed on September 11, 2001 and has not been rebuilt. Instead a pedestrian tunnel follows the line of the North Bridge.

** By badly damaged, I mean panels with dents that deformed their edges so much that the skin was no longer watertight or had outright tears that admitted water.

*** The people are the typical summer tourist crowd visiting “Wall Street.”

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