Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Second Stories on 17th St., Irving Place to 1st Ave. (Open eyes, engage brain, part 3)

Here's the third and final part of the 17th St. series. Why didn't I start all the way over at the West Side? Once I had sorted through the photos from 6th to 1st Avenues, I was shocked to realize I had 3 days' worth of posts -more than enough to make my point that even after you've walked an area for a couple decades, there's still more to see if you focus your mind.

Washington Irving, by Frederick Beer. Irving (1783-1859), a native New Yorker, was one of the first Americans to win international acclaim for his writing. Among his efforts are the hilarious Knickerbocker's History of New York, 1809, "Rip Van Winkle," "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and a 5-volume biography of George Washington. "Great minds have purposes," he said; "little minds have wishes. Little minds are subdued by misfortunes; great minds rise above them." Click here for more Washington Irving quotes, and visit Project Gutenberg to read some of his works online.

Break pediment, insert air conditioner ... an odd arrangement. The broken pediment dates back to the late Roman Empire.

Someone had a wild time designing this particular cornice.

One of a pair of elegant oval windows flanking a columned portico; considerable effort went into the fence, as well.

Quite a large and elaborate facade.

This type of statue derives from the boy whose job was to hold the reins of your horse. Seeing three of them on a second-floor balcony made me laugh.

Just east of the boys who are Forever Young and Forever Useless, a lovely ironwork balcony.

The fence of Stuyvesant Square, whose main supports are in the shape of fasces (rods bound together), a Roman symbol of authority. Inside the Square is Whitney's Peter Stuyvesant, 1936, Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan #16.

Maybe he's been bad, but he certainly looks remorseful. Couldn't they let him out of that corner? He stands, unidentified, in front of the Hospital for Joint Diseases on the corner of 2nd Ave.

Three nicely proportioned arches, three carved caduceuses. I think it's part of Beth Israel Hospital.

Second Stories on 17th St., 5th Ave. to Irving Place (Open eyes, engage brain, part 2)

Yesterday's post was on 17th St. between 6th and 5th Avenues, looking at the second stories rather than ground floor. Today's post continues east from 5th Ave. to Irving Place.

Decorative palm leaves and a cartouche above a doorway.

A cartouche with a nicely lettered address, flanked by cornucopias.

This decorative stone carving reminds me a bit of Louis Sullivan's work: compare the doorway and ground-floor columns of the Bayard-Condict Building at Crosby and Bleecker, Sullivan's only NYC building.

More Beaux Arts decoration, including swags, egg-and-dart moldings, and even a couple fleur-de-lis.

One of the upper stories of the Barnes & Noble at Union Square North (a.k.a. 17th St.). It was originally the Century Building, constructed 1880-1881 (AIA Guide p. 202, W7).

Decorative element on the building at the northwest corner of Park and 17th St.: nice palmettes. Originally the Everett Building, 1908; the AIA Guide says it's "careful but bland" (p. 202, W8).

Arch from the huge ground-floor windows of the W New York Hotel, built in 1910-1911 for Germania Life Insurance. Could you doubt that a company housed in such a stalwart building would pay what it owed you? The AIA Guide (p. 203, W9) notes that after World War I the name "Germania" was a liability, so the board of directors chose a new name with the aim of using as many letters as possible from the old. On a recent walking tour, I heard that the Germania/Guardian had the NYC's first electric roof sign, which is why the W Hotel is allowed to have one today.

Tammany Hall, southeast corner of Park Ave. and 17th St. The building dates to 1929, when the fortunes of this New York political organization were about to decline sharply. The medallion on the pediment holds a red liberty cap.

Medallion from the north side of the Tammany Hall building. Tammany Hall was founded in 1788 as the Society of St. Tammany or the Columbian Order - hence the medallion of Columbus. The other medallion on the north facade is of "Tamanend," a legendary chief of the Delaware tribe. For more on Tammany's long and often corrupt existence, see the Encyclopedia of New York City pp. 1149-51.

Relief from the north side of the Tammany Hall building. Arrows and laurels? What's that mean?

Lovely decorative panels, nice arches at the top.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Second Stories on 17th St., 6th to 5th Avenues (Open eyes, engage brain, part 1)

For once I wandered down 17th St. looking at the upper stories rather than street level. It's amazing how much I'd never noticed in the hundreds of times I've walked these blocks. Below are some details from the block between 6th Ave. and 5th Ave. Of all of these, only the New York Foundling Home on the corner of 6th and 17th (one of whose ceramic plaques is above) is significant enought to be in the AIA Guide to New York City. Someone must have decided pastoral scenes would be soothing decoration: a row of similar plaques adorns the building's facade.

A lovely carved Beaux Arts doorway, probably ca. 1900-1910.

Charming combination of bay and arched windows.

Wide arched window with a flourish at center - nice proportions.

Grrrrrr. Another Beaux Arts ornament.

And even more Beaux Arts, this time swags. I tire of Beaux Arts in large amounts (building after building, or one building that's very heavily ornamented), but I do love looking at the details, which demonstrate a level of workmanship that seldom appears on modern buildings.

Much plainer than Beaux Arts, although probably not much later - masonry goes out of fashion in favor of brick early in the 20th c. Some thought obviously went into the proportions and the relationship of the upper to lower window. This is on the southwest corner of Fifth Ave. and 17th St.
Soon to come: more of 17th St., from Fifth Ave. to Park.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Greenpoint War Memorial in McGolrick Park

When my daughter was a toddler in the 1990s, my favorite park in Greenpoint was McGolrick, which had modern playground equipment (unlike the then-decrepit park on Franklin St.) and trees large enough to offer shade (unlike the then-scorching McCarren Park playground). McGolrick Park was an oasis, set in a quiet residential neighborhood far away from the traffic and bustle of McGuinness Blvd. and Manhattan Avenue.

The winged allegorical figure of Carl Heber's Greenpoint War Memorial has not found life in McGolrick so serene, even though she strides along bearing a palm frond and a laurel branch, symbols of peace and victory. (See Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan #31, on Sherman.) According to the NYC Parks Dept. website, the base of the memorial was damaged in 1962, when Christmas trees placed around it caught fire. In 1975 vandals stole parts of the palm frond, and a year later toppled the statue off its base. It was repaired as part of the renovation of McGolrick Park in 1985. Of course, this was not the only monument that suffered during New York's financial woes in the 1970s. Lederer's All Around the Town: A Walking Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in New York City, published in 1975, is full of monuments defaced with grime and graffiti.

The Greenpoint War Memorial was dedicated in 1923 to residents of the neighborhood who had served in the First World War. The inscription on the front reads: "To the living and the dead heroes of Greenpoint who fought in the World War because they loved America, revered its ideals under God, and supported its institutions and gave their all that our government shall not perish from the earth.” On the other sides of the base are inscribed names of major battles: Argonne, Somme, Chateau Thierry.

For more on changes in war memorials from the Civil War to the First World War, listen to my Battery Park podcast.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Williamsburg, old and new

Williamsburg is changing rapidly, as every New Yorker knows: below, some juxtapositions of old and new.

Above: Manhattan Ave. at Skillman.

Above: Graham Ave. between Skillman and Conselyea. No, it's not like the others, but when the light comes through the roof in the morning, it's very attractive - and not bad the rest of the time, either.

Above: the high-rises on Bayard, facing McCarren Park, seen from Frost St.

Above: the Bayard St. high-rises from behind the McCarren Pool, which is finally in use again - although not for swimming.

Above: to the left, new construction on Union. To the left of the flag, the top of the Giglio from the annual feast (see post of 7/14).

The party's over: the Giglio amid vans packing up the food stands, the day after the feast ended.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jagiello, Abingdon Memorial, and NOT for summer wear in NYC

In the course of retaking photos in TIFF format, I captured this excellent detail of King Jagiello in Central Park (Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan #39). Below is the World War I Abingdon Memorial, by Philip Martiny, at the intersection of Bleecker, Hudson and 8th Ave. This one didn't didn't make the cut for Outdoor Monuments, but it was a close call.

And finally, a cheerful group of some of America's most famous females in the window of a fur store on Houston St., Manhattan.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Trapped in Manhattan, Dancing in Williamsburg

Wouldn't this make a great photo for advertising get-away weekends to Manhattanites? Taken from the west end of Grand Street, Brooklyn, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Right next door to several large-scale condos under construction, Williamsburg has the Feast of the Giglio. Several times over the past 10 days a group of 120 men has hefted the 4-ton, 75-foot-tall Giglio and danced with it to music from a 16-piece orchestra, which sits right there on the platform of the Giglio. It is a startling sight, particularly to someone who grew up with a religion whose chief requirement seemed to be sitting quietly and behaving oneself. Check local news outlets for times of the Dancing of the Giglio, and here for the hundred- year history of the Giglio in the United States.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Architectural Terracotta

Terracotta was popular for architectural ornament from the 1870s until the early 20th century. Older buildings in New York that otherwise don't have much to recommend them often have charming terracotta ornament, some of it very elaborate. Below are some photos of it I've collected over the past couple years. This is decorative rather than fine art, but the quality is very high - and although I may not be inspired to great deeds by the final product, I'm still impressed by by the knowledge and effort that went into the design and execution of these bits and pieces.
The first 3 pieces are from Brooklyn, the others from Manhattan. If you're really curious about the precise locations, post a question and I'll look them up for you.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Strolling Manhattan

A couple days ago I wandered from 87th to 54th St., as close to the East River as I could manage, to take photos of a few sculptures I hadn't yet seen. Along the way I passed a recently completed New York Hospital building (York at about 69th St.) that has the odd property of always seeming to be in a fog, and bent out of shape to boot. It's certainly striking. For a similar construction, see my post of June 22nd on the new building rising on the northwest corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd St.

South of 59th St. you get great views of the Queensboro Bridge, even on days when it's heavily overcast.

In the Strange Juxtaposition Department, if you walk to the east end of 57th St., you'll find a charming park hovering between the level of the dead-end street and the FDR Drive. Dead in the center of it is this modern copy of a wild boar from the Renaissance.

And finally, in the Bizarre and Pretty categories: a new residential building called Big Blue on Delancey St. near the Williamsburg Bridge (vertiginous views from those lower stories, I would think), and a gorgeous sunset reflected in Central Park's Turtle Pond, which proves algae is good for something besides feeding marine life.