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U.S. Custom House – Philadelphia, PA

The Depression era brought together the nation's leading architects, artists and workmen to produce some of America's finest civic architecture. In Philadelphia, the most imposing of the great federal building projects was the U.S. Custom House.
In an effort to stimulate the economy following the stock market crash of 1929, Congress passed a bill appropriating funds for the Custom House. Begun in December 1932, the Custom House employed over 4,000 workers, opening November 10, 1934. It stands as a fitting architectural monument to Philadelphia's status as the world's largest freshwater port, and after New York, the nation's busiest.


The final major work by Ritter & Shay, Philadelphia's most prominent designers of Art Deco skyscrapers, the Custom House is one of the architects' unquestioned masterpieces. Where federal buildings often repeated a conventional scheme with minor variations, the form of the Custom House stands out for its boldness and originality. Most striking of all is the building's tapered tower, the apex of which housed a powerful beacon light.

Project Scope


The U.S. General Services Administration completed an extensive restoration of the U.S. Custom House in the early 1990s. The building showed signs of wear and needed major renovations. The recent renovations included extensive exterior stone and terra cotta repair, cleaning, and conservation.

Grunley Construction Company (Rockville, MD) was chosen as General Contractor to lead energy efficiency renovations. Work on the 264 square foot, three-story base included new exterior lighting, a high-efficiency boiler, and a "green" roof. Other repair work included heavy restoration of masonry, replacement/restoration of all windows and a reconstruction of the front entrance. The U.S. Custom House Envelope Renovation project was funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

Architects Transystems (Philadelphia, PA) and RMJM Hillier (Conshohocken, PA) required non-staining sealant properties for the limestone substrates, a custom color for window frames and a paintable product for interior caulking. Pecora salesman Michael Bear utilized positive relationships he developed with Transystems to secure the project through authorized Pecora distributors Kenseal and TB Philly. To meet the specifications, Pecora recommended and provided 864NST, AC-20 and Dynatrol II.

"We are very happy with the performance of 864NST Silicone sealant and pleased with the personal service we receive from Pecora. We conducted several small pull tests, all of which went very well." -Dan Lloyd, Berlin Steel Project Manager (Malvern, PA)

Berlin Steel sealed the lower level exterior steel windows with 864NST (custom color). Dynatrol II was installed in the brick and stone masonry joints by Dan Lepore & Sons (Conshohocken, PA) Upper level exterior wood perimeters were sealed with 864NST (custom color) and interior wood window perimeters with AC-20 by Hispanic Ventures (Absecon, NJ)

Pecora Protects the U.S. Customs House


Pecora's ability to provide quality products, outstanding service and attention to detail were major factors that contributed to the overall success of this project. The next time you are driving on I-95 through Philadelphia make sure to look to the west as you pass Penn's Landing to view this remarkable piece of history.


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