Newark Liberty International Airport, Buildings 51 & 1


With origins dating back to the 1920s, Newark Liberty International Airport was the New York metropolitan area’s first major airport. Building 51, an art deco structure originally constructed in 1934 which was originally dedicated by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in 1935, and listed on the National Historic Register, served as the world’s first passenger terminal, flight control tower, airport hotel and weather bureau.

The Challenge

With the extension of the north-south runways, the Port Authority was saddled with a structure that no longer could be occupied due to the FAA regulations regarding runway restricted safety zones. Prismatic was charged with moving the west wing, center section and east wing of Building 51, weighing in at a combined total of 9,000 tons, for a distance of nearly three-quarters of a mile. The center section of the building alone weighs over 6,000 tons and measures 280 feet long by 80 feet wide – the heaviest structure ever moved in the world on rubber tire dollies.

This project was the first phase of construction that ultimately involved the restoration and adaptive reuse of the existing relocated 60,000 square foot Building 51 and the construction of a 120,000 square foot addition. After Prismatic completed the final phase of construction, the Building was renamed Building 1. 

Our Solution

Extensive concrete cutting and excavation occurred to prepare the building for relocation. Using a unified jacking machine, the building section was set upon steel rocker and spacer beams atop 200 tire dollies. The 3,700 foot route for moving this building took the structure out onto the airside of the airport. Extensive coordination with the Port Authority, FAA, flight control and airport tenants was required for the temporary closure of the main runway and associated taxiways. Approximately $7 million of the project cost was dedicated to the design/build portion of relocating and reconstructing historic Building 51, with the remainder dedicated to the construction of new pile foundations, two new FAA flight control buildings and antenna towers.