A Pictorial Blog of Things I Make,
Items I Collect, Architecture I Love,
and Other Stuff

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Parliament of Decorative Owls in Manhattan

 Symbol for Minerva, goddess of wisdom, the owl has for millennia represented enlightenment, making it a fit feathered furbelow for the terra-cotta facade of the Ottendorfer Branch of the New York Public Library at 135 Second Avenue. Designed by William Schnickel, the building was the first in Manhattan to serve specifically as a free public lending library and looks pretty much the same as when it opened in 1884.

At Central Park's Bethesda Terrace, carved a century and a half ago in New Brunswick sandstone, is this owl . . .

. . . paired with a bat.

 Inner-knowing, psychic ability, intuition, mysticism, silent observation, independence, longevity--these are other owl attributes, ones that have led some to call it "a cat with wings." The owl above is carved on Millan House at 116 East 68th Street, designed by Andrew J. Thomas in 1931.

 This owl perches on the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ventilation Building, a utilitarian structure just north of Battery Park.

The owl surveys from a plaque designed by sculptor Paul Manship, one of three that originally graced the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle. When it was torn down in 2000 to make way for the Time Warner Center, the plaques found a new home here.

Here are four representatives of an owl octet that abide on the Merchants' Building at 693 Broadway, designed in 1908 by William C. Frohne.

Here's a closer look at one of them. 

On the side of the 12th Street Ale House, 192 Second Avenue.

One of five owls that roost on the Benjamin Hotel, 125 East 50th Street.

Because an owl appeared on the masthead of the New York Herald, once headquartered just north of Herald Square and the reason it is so named, the square abounds with owls, including this example, one of a pair sculpted in the mid-2000s by Gregg LeFevre.
 At the center of Herald Square is the Bell Ringers Monument, composed of elements (including a 10-foot-tall Minerva) sculpted by Antonin Jean Paul Carles and that once enriched the roof line of the Herald building (built 1894, demolished 1921). Atop the bell--beset by two strapping blacksmiths known as Stuff and Guff--is Minerva's talisman, the owl.

 Here's a closer look at Minerva's mascot atop the five-foot bell. Each hour, Stuff and Guff rotate at the waist to clobber the bell, but observers rarely notice that their mighty sledgehammers stop three inches from it. Synchronized with their blows but hidden behind the bell are two mallets that actually make it sound.

Two other owls dwell atop the Bell Ringers Monument. Each has a pair of green glass eyes that ominously blink on and off 24 hours a day.

On the north door to the monument is this bas-relief medallion bearing a French saying that, roughly translated, means "Best to sleep on it." Some say this is the portal to a secret society à la The Da Vinci Code.

One of a half-dozen owls at 15 Madison Square North.

Another decorative owl on Millan House at 116 East 68th Street.
To look at a similar post, visit A Scurry of Decorative Squirrels in N.Y.C.
To look at more owls, visit: From My Selection of Bookplates: Owls

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chic Black-and-White New York City Business Cards

This seafood eatery has two locations: 96 Second Avenue and 568 Amsterdam Avenue.

This restaurant has been has business since the late '70s and from Day One has used this logo, one of my all-time favorites.

Once at 442 Park Avenue, closed since 2007.

561 Columbus Avenue.

There are three locations: 700 East Ninth Street, 341 East 10th Street and 75 Ninth Avenue.

140 Ninth Avenue.

A good friend and a superlative designer, as evidenced by his card.

The calligraphy is by Bernard Maisner.

241 East 10th Street.

670 East 187th Street--in da Bronx.

Another eatery dating from the 1970s--and still with the same logo. Elephant & Castle is, of course, an area of London, and according to folk etymology, the name comes from the British corruption of la Infanta de Castilla.

11 West 31st Street.

127 West 26th Street.

143 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights.

55 Third Avenue.

160 West 25th Street.

40 Avenue C.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ten More Mid-Cen Gems in Manhattan

New contours, new symmetry, new outlines preoccupied mid-century architects--as evidenced by Beth Israel's 13-story Jack and Belle Linsky Pavilion, completed in 1966 at 281 First Avenue. 

These ever-so-slightly hipped mid-cen apertures at 162 Amsterdam Avenue date from around 1964.

On the campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology on West 27th Street is the Administration and Technology Building, completed in 1958 and designed by DeYoung & Moscowitz.

This mid-cen sign on the Morris W. & Fannie B. Haft Auditorium is also from 1958.

Morris Lapidus brought a little Miami Beach to New York City in 1961 with his undulating, sea-foam-colored design for the Summit Hotel (now the Doubletree Metropolitan) at 569 Lexington Avenue. The building was declared a New York City landmark in 2005.  

The design of Habonim Congregation at 44 West 66th Street features a cube rotated 45 degrees and set within another cube. It was designed in 1956 by Stanley Prowler and Frank Falliance.

The 36-story Park Lane residential building at 185 East 85th Street was designed by H.I. Feldman, completed in 1967, and has been seen by millions in the opening credits for The Jeffersons. They moved into one of its 442 apartments in 1975.

South facade of the 24-story Verizon Building, 240 East 38th Street, designed by Kahn & Jacobs in 1967.

Cat's-eye stained-glass windows perforate the facade of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, designed in 1956 by Percival Goodman. In Hannah and Her Sisters, Sam Waterson takes Carrie Fisher and Dianne Wiest on an architectural tour, singling out this structure (at 5 East 62nd Street) for censure.

The curving facade of 200 Central Park South, a residential building designed in 1964 by Wechsler & Schimenti.

At 450 West 33rd, Davis, Brody & Associates concocted this brawny mid-cen silhouette in 1970 for the Westyard Distribution Center.
To look at a previous posting on this style of architecture, visit: Ten Mid-Cen Gems in Manhattan