Thursday, July 26, 2012 - Benedict Portal: Architectural Gem Returns to Greenwich's Historic District

Media Contact: George Pawlush

Benedict Portal: Architectural Gem Returns to Greenwich’s Historic District

July 26 (GREENWICH, Conn.) – The 1917 Benedict Portal – a masterpiece by Thomas Hastings that is part of the architectural heritage of the town of Greenwich and Greenwich Hospital – has a new home as a monument at the hospital’s Sherman and Gloria Cohen Pavilion in the city’s historic district.

“The Benedict Portal has returned to the hospital campus as a monument to highlight a significant architectural treasure that respects the history of both Greenwich Hospital and the community it serves,” said Frank A. Corvino, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.

A gift from Greenwich philanthropist “Commodore” Elias C. Benedict, the Italian Renaissance portal originally served as the main entrance to Greenwich Hospital from 1917 until the hospital expanded in 1951 and the structure became known as the Benedict Building.

Although the building was razed in 1996 to make way for the Helmsley Medical Building, the ornate doors and lamp posts went into storage with “the promise they would one day return” to the hospital campus, said Barbara Campbell, director of facilities planning at Greenwich Hospital.

The portal’s new William Street location, said Campbell, is “an ideal spot for the free-standing monument because it fits in with the neighborhood’s historic character.” A paved path from the portal leads to a garden with a water fountain, benches and bronze sculpture. “It’s a beautiful garden open to everyone in the community,” she said.

The Benedict Building was designed by Hastings of Carrere and Hastings, an architectural firm that dominated the monument design scene from 1895 to 1920, including its signature piece, the New York Public Library. Benedict, a renowned Greenwich businessman and yachtsman, funded the building’s construction, but he never wanted the structure to bear his name. The hospital included six wards and 90 beds with porches that could be enclosed by glass in the winter.

Using photographs as a guide, architect Jeffrey Hall of New York restored the portal to its original grandeur to highlight the limestone columns and arched pediment surrounding carved oak doors, classical moldings and a bronze transom. Small busts of Plato and Aristotle adorn the door grilles. The cast iron lamp posts, which subtly light the area in the evening, were stripped and restored with bronze green enamel paint. Another light focuses on the door and transom to accent the architecture.

The monument stands atop a masonry pier with brick to match the Cohen Pavilion, which houses Bendheim Cancer Center and the Breast Center. The installation was a challenge, considering the monument weighs 250,000 pounds, according to Matthew Feichtner, the project manager. “It was a massive effort,” he said, “but the results are spectacular.”