• Winged griffin, after Hecla Iron Works

    The first half od hte first mold is done, to-morrow the 2nd half will be done and the work makes some more progress.

    The Hecla Iron Works of Brooklyn NY was named after Mount Hecla, an active volcano in Iceland. A fitting name for a design studio and foundry established by two Scandinavians: Danish-born Niels Poulson and his Norwegian partner, Charles Eger.

    The two men came to the United States at different times in the 1860s, and founded their business in a small office in Williamsburg in 1876, a boom time for building in Brooklyn and New York City. Both men had backgrounds as mason-journeymen, and Poulson had been an architectural draftsman in Washington DC, and architect/engineer for the Architectural Ironworks of New York.

     

  • Winged griffin

    I decided to finally make the 3 molds needed to make this griffin newel post. I had 3 of them in my collection, cast-iron from the 1870s they were used as newel posts on the stoops of buildings in NYC.
    Many of them had their wings broken off, many probably deliberately by building supers to remove the fairly sharp pointed wings to avoid injuries or tearing of ladies dresses.

    They were made by Heckla Iron works in Brooklyn.

    The originals were cast-iron, a material that would cost hundreds of dollars just for the castings, so casting them in metal is not likely, casting them in any kind of plaster, cast stone or ceramic/terracotta would be too fragile, so the only practical material these can be made of in a two part resin, even so this is expensive and would take about $150 worth to cast the 3 pieces.

    I am at present working on the molds required, the wings will take two two piece molds and the body will take one two piece mold and a supporting shell, my plaster cast needs some repairs, refinement and chasing some missing details back in, sometime later this summer I should have the work done.

    After I have a couple in my hands I can price them better then, I anticipate they will be around $350 each, the resin comes in deep black, so if they are primed and painted with a gloss black paint they would be like the original painted cast-iron pieces which were usually gloss black too like the 2nd photo shows.

    The resin can be drilled to install on a base or something, I would not recommend using the resin casts AS newel posts, but in the garden or just as decorative newel posts not supporting an active handrail they’d be stunning.

     

     

    48 Perry st, Greenwich Village, the pair do not appear to be original to this location, maybe even this building, an architectural iron firm

    had a hand in restoring them but it is unknown what exactly they did, at the very least they likely replaced missing wings. All of the ones Ive seen had provisions in the tops of the heads for a handrail, these two don’t so  they may have been altered, in fact the whole ground floor was extensively changed and this ugly concrete going up he stairs that the griffins sit on certainly is not original. Further- the building dates closer to around 1895 while these griffins date to ca 1870s.

  • Artifact of the month (February 2020)

    Artifact: Two brass gothic door lock assemblies

    Material: Brass

    Identification marks: Toulon 2850, 10th floor, and 17th floor, Patent dates include 1904 and 1905

    Dim’s h/w/d: 12-3/4” x 3-1/2”

    Weight: 4# approx

    Origin: From a NYC commercial building ca 1910, possibly from 90 West Street.

    The back of the plate reads “Toulon 2850” and “L H Patented Apr 19 1904, Aug 20 1904, May 16, 1905 and others.”

     

    The style and age as well as one coming from the 17th floor strongly lean towards their having come from 90 West Street in Manhattan, it was erected and in the style at the same time frame as these locks having been made, and the building is 23 floors high, suffered considerable interior fire and water damage after 9/11/01 and was renovated into condos. These heavy commercial door locks would have become obsolete, and it’s possible over the years some were removed from doors that had been removed or replaced, and the locks stored in the basement. There’s no other gothic styled building I can think of in Manhattan that would seem to fit everything as well as having at least 17 floors, other than the Woolworth building but all of the doorknobs in that building have logos on them that clearly indicate the Woolworth building.

    ny gothic styled building with less floors can be ruled out for obvious reasons, as can residential apartment buildings since these door locks are heavy duty commercial locks and plates installed on large 2″ thick doors, that also used a master key system.

     

  • Artifact of the month (January 2020)

     

     

    Circa 1903 roundel with a deep relief female portrait bust wearing long hair, a necklace and lace garment, laurel and oak leaves flank the figure, each element has a symbolic meaning and purpose. The laurel leaves symbolize victory while the oak leaves symbolize strength.

    So this female figure was associated with victory and strength.

    Terracotta 25″ across, purchased from an antique store on Bleecker Street in 2009 for $1350. The roundel, which was salvaged in the 1950s from the Lower East Side  was probably from a tenement  East of Avenue D when the city built the “Projects,” originally she likely  had a separate border made of six sections.

    The Brooklyn museum has one of these roundels with five of the six borders in their sculpture garden. The author has found photos of at least three extant buildings in Manhattan which have these same roundels on them, they are located at 431-441 East 80th Street, and 219 Grand Street.

    The East 80th street buildings’ roundels have no borders while those on the Grand St facade do have them.

    It is unknown who the portrait represents, but as should be obvious- the uncommon round shaped terracotta, and the prominent locations these were placed and on multiple buildings suggests that the figure represents either a historical  person of the day, or even someone important to the architect or building owner. It is dated to 1903 but after researching possibilities, about the only seemingly likely figure might be Jenny Lind, a much beloved popular female singer of the era but she died in 1887,

    how about Emily Warren Roebling- the female engineer who completed the Brooklyn bridge died in 1903? or perhaps Julia Boggs Grant  who was the First Lady of the United States and wife of Ulysses S. Grant, she died in 1902? so many possibilities and no effective way to  pinpoint the “who” for sure.

     

  • Sculpture of the week (January 7th, 2020)

    Grotesque Keystone Nr 285
    Kiln Fired Terracotta

     

    The keystone that provided the original to make the mold from came from 705 -707 East 5th Street, Manhattan, pictured below in 1975;
    The original ca 1905 keystone was made from white terracotta and  just the grotesque mask upper half was used;
    Like the original, my red terracotta is hand-pressed and kiln fired, these can be used outdoors in the garden or built into a brick or stone wall.
    The entire block of buildings on East 5th Street was demolished in the 1980s.
    To purchase one of my kiln fired keystones;

    Grotesque Keystone Nr 285 Kiln Fired Terracotta

    Copyright © 2020 Randall’s Urban Sculptures

  • Sculpture of the week (December 31st, 2019)

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D8 “Activity”

    To purchase an interior cast of this;

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D8 “Activity”

     

     

    HISTORY of the building
    The 56 story tall Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929 It was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the Art Deco style, with the assistance of Chanin’s own architect Jacques Delamarre, and it incorporates architectural sculpture by noted sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan.

    In the lobbies, eight bronze reliefs designed by Rene Paul Chambellan are inset in the walls above ornate bronze radiator grilles. The bronze ornamentation continues in the waves on the floor, mailboxes, and elevator doors extending the general Art Deco style from the outside in. Initially a dominant landmark in the midtown skyline, the building had an open air observatory on the 54th floor.

    Having been surpassed in height by a number of buildings, most notably the Chrysler Building located across the street, the observatory has been long closed. The self-supporting tower atop the building is the original transmission site for WQXR-FM from 1941 to the 1960s. Irwin S. Chanin, was a self-made man – from poor immigrant to successful architect & developer. He wanted the building that bore his name to represent everything America and New York City meant for him, and could also be for all those that chose to seek it.

    He had Rene Chambellan work with Jacques Delamarre to develop a set of eight relief sculptures to represent this. There were two lobbies in the building, each have four plaques, all of which were to represent a theme of “New York, the City of Opportunity.” four of the plaques represent the Mental Life and four of them represent the Physical Life of the individual.

    Each plaque had a title:

    Mental Life: “Enlightenment,” “Vision,” “Courage,” “Achievement” Physical Life: “Endurance,” “Activity,” “Effort,” “Success”

    HISTORY of the sculptor whose artwork appears on the building;

    Rene Paul Chambellan (September 15, 1893 – November 29, 1955) was an American sculptor, born in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Chambellan studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris and with Solon Borglum in New York City. Chambellan specialized in architectural sculpture. He was also one of the foremost practitioners of what was then called the “French Modern Style” and has subsequently been called Art Deco. He also frequently designed in the Greco Deco style. Rene had many historic and significant buildings under his belt as a sculptor, including the NY Daily News Buildings, Buffalo City Hall, NY Life insurance building. Rene also designed medals, bronze doors, and the historic city seals and other artwork adorning the old Miller Highway (West Side Highway) that ran along Manhattan’s West side along the North (Hudson) River until a collapse in 1973 resulted in it’s eventual removal.

    I always found these hyper-masculine figures in this era to be interesting, more so with the abstractness of this in Art Deco. Chambellain’s grandson Bob was working on a book several years ago, and a looks at the web site http://www.louisvilleartdeco.com will bring forth a treasure trove of studio photos and more information on Mr Chambellain and his many works; Rene Paul Chambellan – One of Art Deco’s Greatest Sculptors. by Jim Patterson, with Bob Perrone. Artists played a critical part in architecture during the late ’20s, through the ’30s, and up to WWII. Art Deco buildings wouldn’t have their edgy character without the ornamentation supplied by these artists. A number of talented artists contributed to making each building into its own art gallery of sorts. Metalworkers, muralists, sculptors, designers…. They all played a key part. This feature article is about one of my favorite artists – sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan (pronounced with the “sh” soft sound: “Sham -bell – an”).

    Copyright © 2019 Randall’s Urban Sculptures

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D8 “Activity”

  • Sculpture of the week (December 24th, 2019)

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D9 “Endurance”

     

    To purchase an interior cast of this sculpture;

     

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D9 “Endurance”

     

    HISTORY of the building
    The 56 story tall Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929 It was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the Art Deco style, with the assistance of Chanin’s own architect Jacques Delamarre, and it incorporates architectural sculpture by noted sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan.

    In the lobbies, eight bronze reliefs designed by Rene Paul Chambellan are inset in the walls above ornate bronze radiator grilles. The bronze ornamentation continues in the waves on the floor, mailboxes, and elevator doors extending the general Art Deco style from the outside in. Initially a dominant landmark in the midtown skyline, the building had an open air observatory on the 54th floor.

    Having been surpassed in height by a number of buildings, most notably the Chrysler Building located across the street, the observatory has been long closed. The self-supporting tower atop the building is the original transmission site for WQXR-FM from 1941 to the 1960s. Irwin S. Chanin, was a self-made man – from poor immigrant to successful architect & developer. He wanted the building that bore his name to represent everything America and New York City meant for him, and could also be for all those that chose to seek it.

    He had Rene Chambellan work with Jacques Delamarre to develop a set of eight relief sculptures to represent this. There were two lobbies in the building, each have four plaques, all of which were to represent a theme of “New York, the City of Opportunity.” four of the plaques represent the Mental Life and four of them represent the Physical Life of the individual.

    Each plaque had a title:

    Mental Life: “Enlightenment,” “Vision,” “Courage,” “Achievement” Physical Life: “Endurance,” “Activity,” “Effort,” “Success”

    HISTORY of the sculptor whose artwork appears on the building;

    Rene Paul Chambellan (September 15, 1893 – November 29, 1955) was an American sculptor, born in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Chambellan studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris and with Solon Borglum in New York City. Chambellan specialized in architectural sculpture. He was also one of the foremost practitioners of what was then called the “French Modern Style” and has subsequently been called Art Deco. He also frequently designed in the Greco Deco style. Rene had many historic and significant buildings under his belt as a sculptor, including the NY Daily News Buildings, Buffalo City Hall, NY Life insurance building. Rene also designed medals, bronze doors, and the historic city seals and other artwork adorning the old Miller Highway (West Side Highway) that ran along Manhattan’s West side along the North (Hudson) River until a collapse in 1973 resulted in it’s eventual removal.

    I always found these hyper-masculine figures in this era to be interesting, more so with the abstractness of this in Art Deco. Chambellain’s grandson Bob was working on a book several years ago, and a looks at the web site http://www.louisvilleartdeco.com will bring forth a treasure trove of studio photos and more information on Mr Chambellain and his many works; Rene Paul Chambellan – One of Art Deco’s Greatest Sculptors. by Jim Patterson, with Bob Perrone. Artists played a critical part in architecture during the late ’20s, through the ’30s, and up to WWII. Art Deco buildings wouldn’t have their edgy character without the ornamentation supplied by these artists. A number of talented artists contributed to making each building into its own art gallery of sorts. Metalworkers, muralists, sculptors, designers…. They all played a key part. This feature article is about one of my favorite artists – sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan (pronounced with the “sh” soft sound: “Sham -bell – an”).

    Copyright © 2019 Randall’s Urban Sculptures

  • Sculpture of the week (December 17th, 2019)

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D10 “Enlightenment”

     

    To purchase a cast of this sculpture;

     

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D10 “Enlightenment”

    HISTORY of the building
    The 56 story tall Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929 It was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the Art Deco style, with the assistance of Chanin’s own architect Jacques Delamarre, and it incorporates architectural sculpture by noted sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan.

    In the lobbies, eight bronze reliefs designed by Rene Paul Chambellan  are inset in the walls above ornate bronze radiator grilles. The bronze ornamentation continues in the waves on the floor, mailboxes, and elevator doors extending the general Art Deco style from the outside in. Initially a dominant landmark in the midtown skyline, the building had an open air observatory on the 54th floor.

    Having been surpassed in height by a number of buildings, most notably the Chrysler Building located across the street, the observatory has been long closed. The self-supporting tower atop the building is the original transmission site for WQXR-FM from 1941 to the 1960s. Irwin S. Chanin, was a self-made man – from poor immigrant to successful architect & developer. He wanted the building that bore his name to represent everything America and New York City meant for him, and could also be for all those that chose to seek it.

    He had Rene Chambellan work with Jacques Delamarre to develop a set of eight relief sculptures to represent this. There were two lobbies in the building, each have four plaques, all of which were to represent a theme of “New York, the City of Opportunity.” four of the plaques represent the Mental Life and four of them represent the Physical Life of the individual.

    Each plaque had a title:

    Mental Life: “Enlightenment,” “Vision,” “Courage,” “Achievement” Physical Life: “Endurance,” “Activity,” “Effort,” “Success”

    HISTORY of the sculptor whose artwork appears on the building;

    Rene Paul Chambellan (September 15, 1893 – November 29, 1955) was an American sculptor, born in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Chambellan studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris and with Solon Borglum in New York City. Chambellan specialized in architectural sculpture. He was also one of the foremost practitioners of what was then called the “French Modern Style” and has subsequently been called Art Deco. He also frequently designed in the Greco Deco style. Rene had many historic and significant buildings under his belt as a sculptor, including the NY Daily News Buildings, Buffalo City Hall, NY Life insurance building. Rene also designed medals, bronze doors, and the historic city seals and other artwork adorning the old Miller Highway (West Side Highway) that ran along Manhattan’s West side along the North (Hudson) River until a collapse in 1973 resulted in it’s eventual removal.

    I always found these hyper-masculine figures in this era to be interesting, more so with the abstractness of this in Art Deco. Chambellain’s grandson Bob was working on a book several years ago, and a looks at the web site http://www.louisvilleartdeco.com will bring forth a treasure trove of studio photos and more information on Mr Chambellain and his many works; Rene Paul Chambellan – One of Art Deco’s Greatest Sculptors. by Jim Patterson, with Bob Perrone. Artists played a critical part in architecture during the late ’20s, through the ’30s, and up to WWII. Art Deco buildings wouldn’t have their edgy character without the ornamentation supplied by these artists. A number of talented artists contributed to making each building into its own art gallery of sorts. Metalworkers, muralists, sculptors, designers…. They all played a key part. This feature article is about one of my favorite artists – sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan (pronounced with the “sh” soft sound: “Sham -bell – an”).

    Copyright © 2020 Randall’s Urban Sculptures

  • Sculpture of the week (December 10th, 2019)

     

    I found documents showing the building “St Vincent’s Hospital, Leon Lowenstein Clinic” which inspired my model was built in 1930 by James W. O’connor, an architect who had quite a portfolio of work on Long Island estates and other buildings. There’s documents and photos in the Historic American Building Survey on the Library of Congress site from 1980. The clinic is in the photo below, demolished in 1980. I was able to purchase the orginal stone carving circled in the photo, but unfortunately after it was taken down and laid on an industrial warehouse  platform cart I brought to transport it- it was so large and heavy I could not even roll the cart! The stone was about 8″ thick, 4 feet by 7 or so feet long, it weighed somewhere around 2,000 pounds, I had to have the demolition crew jackhammer just the part with the sitting figure out of it for me.

    St Vincent’s hospital itself was demolished later.
    Working from photos of it I replicated the entire design in a much smaller scale.

     

     

    To purchase a cast of the sculpture;

    https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/large-sun-worshipper-panel-nr-715/

  • Sculpture of the week (December 3rd, 2019)

    This attractive repeating Art Deco design originally was made in individual nickel plated bronze pieces. The pieces when bolted together formed a repeating motiff lintel across the top of the interior entrance doorway of the Women’s House of Detention.
    The Jail was located at 6th Ave behind the present day Jefferson Market Public Library which was originally a courthouse.
    The New York Women’s House of Detention is believed to have been the world’s only art deco prison. It was designed by Sloan and Robertson in 1931 and opened to the public with a luncheon on March 29, 1932.
    The courthouse, and jail, the latter which was subsequently opened in 1934 (demolished 1973) was the scene of the notorious Harry K Thaw murder trial of renowned architect Stanford White in 1906.
    I rescued several of the individual bronze pieces, the rest were scrapped during demolition, the original lintel was about 8 feet long. I have made a mold of one of the sections and have several configurations available.
    I have a book I saw in a list of references in an article on this building, I was hoping for some photos and didn’t know what to expect of the actual contents. Anyway it’s titled Hellhole; the shocking story of the inmates and life in the New York City House of Detention for Women. By Sara Harris, Dutton 1967. It starts out detailing the jail building and the horrid conditions, rats, roaches, overcrowding, the lousy staff/correction officers/doctors and system that was a total failure in every possible way.
    The city was paying correction officers and doctors on call about $90 a month flat fee, so needless to say the morale to do work wasn’t there, nor were the quality of the medical services. The women only jail saw mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, most all of whom were repeatedly put in there- which clearly shows how the entire criminal justice and court system was a total failure. The book goes on to take general leave of the conditions of the jail and staff treatment of prisoners, and starts diving right into much more detailed case histories and interviews with a number of former and present inmates. Harris’ interviews took her to the worst slums in Harlem. Her subjects recounted their time in this jail and coping with a constant barage of rats, dirty bedding with mice nests inside, toilets that leaked on the floor, the homosexual attacks on new inmates and the gang/protection racket amongst the various factions within the prisoners. They further recounted the lack of medical services and a number of instances where inmates with serious mental or physical problems were not given treatment or given the standard pills they handed to everyone who had a medical complaint of any kind- drug withdrawl pills. Harris’ interviews showed graphically how the entire cycle began, and why the women wound up being incarcerated over and over again- one woman arrested 28 times- for the same crimes.
    The mystery of why someone in the system didn’t start thinking there had to be a better way, treatment for drug addictions and a help up out of the poverty and lack of skills that resulted in prostitution and stealing. The lack of skilled staff and quality medical care, the city’s dire budgetary shortfalls, and the poorly designed “system” all came together in the most disasterous fashion, and the results were a revolving-door of the same pathetic addicted inmates, and ineffectively dealing with the root causes of the problems that brought them there in the first place. It appears as though the “blame” was largely and inappropriately placed upon The “Women’s House of Detention” building when in reality, the jail was a visible and dark symptom of the much larger, totally ineffective and broken- criminal justice, legal, and social welfare system.
    The problem was not so much “the building” as it was the city, poor budget and the quality of staff that $90 a month salary could obtain. I’m not so certain that the ubiquitous rats, roaches, filth, overflowing toilets and poorly trained abusive staff were not symptomatic of all such detention facilities given the budget shortfalls, poorly paid staff and overburdoned court system. In the end, as a “solution” to neighborhood complaints it was the building that was demolished, the system apparently was not fixed nor were the budget problems addressed. Indeed, now, as then, the faces appearing in the facilities and courts are young black poverty stricken, addicted and hopeless people caught up in the system and it’s revolving door cycle of arrest, release back on the street with no job, or money with which to buy food or pay rent, and untreated drug addictions for which the person needs exorbitant amounts of money to support. One can’t help but wonder if these issues are the same today, with only the inmate faces and the addiction of choice being the bulk of any change since the 1960’s Harris’ book has no photos or images, but the details of the stories leaves the readers with more than enough of a series of mental images as clear as any photos she could have included.
    The sculpture is now available in two sizes, large and original;
  • Artifact of the month (December, 2019)

    Otis elevator call button

    The unassuming and dimunitive little Otis elevator call button  was a simple but artistic design used for many years by Otis elevator Co., with their laurel wreath encircling their name emblazoned over a globe logo, and surrounded by a classical egg & dart molding. This particular artifact has only one button- the “up” button as it was originally located in the basement, not only was it located in a lowly, damp basement, but that basement happened to be the one that was under the 1867 Broadway Central Hotel  (BCH) once located on several lots fronting 150 feet of Broadway with the main entrance at 673 Broadway, NY City.

    It was originally named “The Grand Central Hotel”

    The site was originally a hotel and theatre known as; The Lafarge House.  Edwin Booth appeared there as did other well known persons, this  building was destroyed in an 1854 fire, it was rebuilt, and destroyed in yet another spectacular fire!

    In March 1869 the property sold at public auction by the heirs of the Lafarge estate  to E. S. Higgins, Esq., who was recorded fourth on the list of wealthy citizens for the sum of $1,000,000. This gentleman was determined to erecting the largest hotel in the country with 630 rooms.

    The hotel had 350 workmen building it, 7 acres of carpeting, 4,000,000 bricks were used.

    The hotel was the scene of Railroad magnate Jim Fisk’s shooting, and in the early 1970s when the hotel was a welfare hotel and deteriorated greatly, the rear of the hotel was converted into the Mercer Arts Center, a multi theatre and arts complex by Sy Kaback.

    On a late summer day in August 1973, a section of the 8 story facade and the floors behind it all collapsed onto Broadway- killing several people, hundreds of patrons who were due to attend the theatres that very evening escaped the disaster!

    The buck stopped with the city who was notified about a serious  crack and “bulge”  in the facade wall, and other violations, they sent an inspector out, and despite requiring corrective action within 10 days, nothing was done and the city didn’t bother following up! Of the 308 residents, 4 residents were killed, 2 dogs survived days trapped in the rubble, one was adopted by the fire department. Consider that just between Nov 1970 and March 1973 there were 450 building and health code violations recorded in the hotel. Violations included illegal alterations, leaks in the plumbing, fire alarm malfunctioning, and of course the crack and bulge in the facade wall to name but a few.

    On Jan 26, 1973 the Buildings Dept was notified by an engineer doing structural renovations at the hotel that brickwork was bulging out of bond, the next day an inspector found a crack stretching from the 2nd to the 6th floor separating the bearing and facade walls. What was happing there was the facade was moving away from the bearing wall in the center where the 2 walls connected to one another which ran East to West from Broadway to Mercer St in the back.
    The inspector decided to call in the chief inspector, but neither wrote an official report! They did not issue a summons or record an official violation either, they “informed” the hotel manager who promised to take immediate action.

    It wasn’t until Feb 22nd- almost a month later that it was re-inspected after “officially hazardous” conditions were first discovered, a violation was recorded then. It wasn’t even re-inspected again until March 29, NO repair work had even been done despite the 10 day law.
    Still nothing happened as April, May, June and July rolled on by while a major crack from the 2nd to the 6th floor went un-repaired, then Friday August 3rd came around and residents reported hearing strange noises coming out of the walls, the Buildings Dept emergency number was called by Mercer Arts owner Sy Kaback and his wife over the weekend and they told them to call on Monday! The noises became worse and plaster was falling from the ceilings in places, so at least one if not 2 callers called the fire department and they were told that “strange noises are coming out of the walls” the person at the fire dept asked the caller if they had been drinking… amazingly, in the middle of that call with the Kabacks the line went dead because that was when the collapse happened and a large section of the stone and brick facade wall fell out onto Broadway and the sidewalk.

    Broadway Central Hotel Collapse

    I communicated around 1998 or so with the owner of the Mercer Arts Center: Sy Kaback, and his wife, who together operated several live performance theaters in the back of the hotel, Sy’s wife described the scene to me and her call to the fire dept.
    On the day of the collapse, the Mercer Arts Center was expecting a crowd of patrons for some live performances, and the Kabacks were gravely concerned about the falling plaster and cracking and other noises in the walls, they tried calling city agencies to get a go or no go because if they cancelled the event they would have been sued for breach of contract, OTH if they had a few hundred patrons in their theaters and something happened- they would be liable.
    As it happened, the collapsed cccurred just hours before the events were to begin!

    After the collapse, an emergency demolition was begun to demolish the entire building, that was when this  then 13 year old author discovered the site and I began exploring it top to bottom during the demolition, the little Otis elevator plate was discovered after crawling down thru a hole in the rubble to a debris filled hallway in front of the elevator. The button plate and a number of other artifacts came home with me over the many weeks of demolition, and some of these will be pictured here as well.

    But let us go back before the collapse, way back, back before the hotel was built and to the LaFarge House, this illustration will perfectly show my theory, which to my knowlege no one else has hiterto come up with;

    The drawing  on the left in the split image would have been done before the fire on January 8, 1854, Metropolitan Hall and the adjoining La Farge House were destroyed by the fire; but the hall was rebuilt and opened in the following September, under the name of the New York Theatre and Metropolitan Opera House.
    Towards the close of the same year the house was remodelled and called Laura Keene’s Varieties; and in the following year, it became Burton’s Theatre. In 1859 it became the Winter Garden and Conservatory of the Arts, the first part of the title being that by which it is best known and which it retained until its total destruction by fire, March 23, 1867.

    On the left is the old LaFarge House, on the right is the Broadway Central Hotel built on the site after the LaFarge burned to the ground in a spectacular fire, those words “burned to the ground, spectacular fire” are key to my theory, because while the building burned down, the stone and brick facade REMAINED largely intact, notice the red circles showing the very same unique window surrrounds on the LaFarge facade, a classical tripointed  alternating with  dioclesan pedimented windows, as well as the center entrance treatment. In other words what I strongly believe they did, was they REUSED the LaFarge’s facade and where it’s  6th floor shorter windows and cornice were- they removed the cornice, added a larger more dramatic cornice plus three more floors on top and a large central tower with a mansard roof!

    So when we consider this, remember- the LaFarge facade was built for a SIX story building, it was exposed to a massive fire in the rear, collapse of the floors behind it, no doubt millions of gallons of water soaked into it’s footings and surrounding earth. Add now almost 70 years of subway trains vibrating it underneath, and an illegal doorway was cut thru the East-West brick bearing wall behind it in the basement, factor in the additional weight of three more floors and it should be no surprise it finally gave out.

    The failure can be traced right back to the big fire, water, and adding three more floors on top of it causing instability and settling.

     

    Broadway Central Hotel Ca. 1910

     

    Probably THE earliest photo of the hotel, on the original image it is clear that final finishing work was still being done in the rooms behind the windows whose upper half is pushed down fully open, that dates it to about 1869, the horse-drawn carriages were in use before the trolly tracks came in 1892. With a larger scan of one part of the above image reproduced below, let’s focus on the remains of a painted SIGN clearly visible on the wall that says; “–ARGE  HOUSE”;

    THIS is where the original LaFarge House side wall left off and the new brickwork added to the left and above it, that one arch top open window’s lower half is exactly where the short square windows of the LaFarge were located, and that elaborate cornice with it’s large scrolled brackets is where the plainer LaFarge cornice was.

     

    Some other artifacts from the hotel include a Tycos mercury thermometer from a basement

    hot water tank, china and silverware with the hotel logo, and an ACME fire alarm box.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Sculpture of the week (November 26th, 2019)

    Union Square Subway Station Eagle

    Interior cast-stone shown with an antique dirty bronze finish

     

    14th st subway eagle model when it was  completed.

     

    The eagle plaque sculpture  is a  bas relief and after a design by Grueby Faience Co 1904. Grueby custom made tiles and ornaments for the NYC subway stations, and at the Union Square (14th Street), Brooklyn Bridge, and 33rd Street stations these eagle plaques were installed in two slightly different configurations.

    All the ornamentation had been designed to help passengers recognize his or her station without the necessity of listening for the announcement or reading the signs.

    The Interborough Rapid Transit Subway, or IRT, was the first subway company in New York City, and opened on October 27th, 1904
    Station Decoration, Plaques: Grueby Faience Co. 1904.

    Architectural Designs For New York’s First Subway David J. Framberger Survey Number HAER NY-122, pp. 365-412 Historic American Engineering Record National Park Service Department of the Interior Washington, DC.

    SIZE: Nominal 24″ high by 19″ wide.

    The plaque is one piece made to look like the multiple pieces the originals were made from, these can be obtained in your choice of any of my usual finishes and may be purchased at this url;

    https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/union-square-subway-station-eagle-nr-s2/

  • Sculpture of the week (November 19th, 2019)

    Sullivanesque panel, after historic artifacts once on the James W Scoville building, Chicago.

    I am excited to offer this interesting  Sullivanesque 1884 design after the artifacts that were connected to  Adler & Sullivan, George Elmslie, Kristian Schneider, and  once installed on the James W Scoville building in Chicago.

    Those involved in creating the original 1884 Chicago design are said to have included;

    Dankmar Adler
    Louis Sullivan
    George Grant Elmslie
    Kristian Schneider

    Significance: The James W. Scoville factory building, designed by Adler & Sullivan contains three different designs belonging to the transitional period (1880 and 1890) of  Louis Sullivan’s architectural ornament. This structure was the best and most ornamental of all the few remaining factory buildings by Adler & Sullivan.

    Some of the original historic artifacts that were salvaged from the 1973 demolition are in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and were gifted by the Metropolitan Museum,  a set of three of these artifacts appears in the St Louis Art Museum’s web site of their holdings.

     

    The  artist working on the master clay model of this design from photos and known measurements

     

    How the original artifacts were originally used on the Scoville building’s facade

    The picture above is from a HABS study done before the building was demolished, three of these designs were installed together under the window sills on one floor.

    One of my interior cast stone casts in the aged buff yellow finish shown above, the mold for casting was taken directly from the original clay model

    SIZE: Nominal 21-1/4″ high by 13″ wide, 3″ deep.
    WEIGHT:Nominal #35
    There is also a hand-pressed, kiln fired red terracotta version available;

    The terracotta version  is;

    Nominal 11-3/4″ wide
    Nominal 19″ high
    Nominal 4-1/2″ deep

    Weight: 35#

    To purchase the fired terracotta version, the link is here;

    https://www.urbansculptures.com/cart/product/sullivanesque-panel-after-james-w-scoville-chicago-nr-ls-2/

     

     

  • Sculpture of the week Nov 12, 2019

    Art Deco Chanin Building Panel D10 “Enlightenment”

    Original design by Rene Paul Chambellan, smaller scaled reproduction modelled by Randall

    SIZE: Nominal 21″ high by 17″ wide
    WEIGHT:Approx 30-35#
    HISTORY of the building
    The 56 story tall Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929 It was designed by Sloan & Robertson in the Art Deco style, with the assistance of Chanin’s own architect Jacques Delamarre, and it incorporates architectural sculpture by noted sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan.
    In the lobbies, eight bronze reliefs designed by Rene Paul Chambellan are inset in the walls above ornate bronze radiator grilles. The bronze ornamentation continues in the waves on the floor, mailboxes, and elevator doors extending the general Art Deco style from the outside in. Initially a dominant landmark in the midtown skyline, the building had an open air observatory on the 54th floor. Having been surpassed in height by a number of buildings, most notably the Chrysler Building located across the street, the observatory has been long closed. The self-supporting tower atop the building is the original transmission site for WQXR-FM from 1941 to the 1960s.
    Irwin S. Chanin, was a self-made man – from poor immigrant to successful architect & developer. He wanted the building that bore his name to represent everything America and New York City meant for him, and could also be for all those that chose to seek it. He had Rene Chambellan work with Jacques Delamarre to develop a set of eight relief sculptures to represent this. There were two lobbies in the building, each have four plaques, all of which were to represent a theme of “New York, the City of Opportunity.” four of the plaques represent the Mental Life and four of them represent the Physical Life of the individual. Each plaque had a title: Mental Life: “Enlightenment,” “Vision,” “Courage,” “Achievement” Physical Life: “Endurance,” “Activity,” “Effort,” “Success”
    HISTORY of the sculptor whose artwork appears on the building
    Rene Paul Chambellan (September 15, 1893 – November 29, 1955) was an American sculptor, born in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Chambellan studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris and with Solon Borglum in New York City. Chambellan specialized in architectural sculpture. He was also one of the foremost practitioners of what was then called the “French Modern Style” and has subsequently been called Art Deco. He also frequently designed in the Greco Deco style. Rene had many historic and significant buildings under his belt as a sculptor, including the NY Daily News Buildings, Buffalo City Hall, NY Life insurance building. Rene also designed medals, bronze doors, and the historic city seals and other artwork adorning the old Miller Highway (West Side Highway) that ran along Manhattan’s West side along the North (Hudson) River until a collapse in 1973 resulted in it’s eventual removal.
    To purchase an interior cast of this attractive design;