I was pleased to locate one of these 65# cast iron City charter seals like the ones I had in the 1970s and was able to buy it just now, there were 5 different designs and I have 2 of them, now this 3rd one. I used to have a few complete sets of them.
They were made around 1928-1934 to decorate the sides of the old elevated Wes t Side Highway that ran along the Western edge of Manhattan. The artwork was designed by noted sculptor Rene Chambellan,though these seals had to be very specific, already made designs, so he had little leeway or say on the actual designs, but he made the master models for these.
The highway itself was shut down for good in 1973 after a section of the roadbed collapsed under a truck, and it was demolished in stages over about 20 years.
The city totally neglected the ironwork, and the liberal use of road salts combined meant this substantially built structure was already falling apart and had to be condemned in just 45 years…
About 800 to 1,000 of each design of the seals were cast, I dont know how many were salvaged, certainly not all of them but I read that the city had about 800 of the for sale around 1980. The city had many for sale in the city store way back then for $150 as is, or $250 sandblasted ($450 and $750 in todays’ money) I got this one today for $499- basically the “inflation” amount difference between what the city was selling them for around 1980 and what that amount is today.
I remember some guy on Ebay from Nebraska had one of these for sale a decade ago, it was given to his mom years before by a friend and sat in the farm field leaning against a stock tank. Well this guy thought he found a gold mine, he said; “it came off a Civil War calvary wagon and was worth a lot of money!!!” He wanted some ridiculous price like $1500, quite a bit for something sitting on the farm field that they got for free as a gift!
He meant “cavalry wagon” LOL and even so his story was pure fabricated bullshit, I even sent him photos of MINE front and back showing they were identical to his and he still insisted HIS had to have come off a Civil War wagon LOL!!
The lye bath took less than 15 minutes to remove all the old paint off the iron, leaving a little surface rust that is mostly now wire brushed away. Waiting on the can of Gibbs’ spray to rub out the rest and clean it up.
I need to make a flat steel bar with two holes in it to mount on the back to hang it on the wall.
Now there’s a mystery!
I looked up the location on Google maps where I removed one of these around 1977- 99th St 2nd ave and much to my surprise the building is still there! but even more surprising is, none of the lion keystones is missing, nor are their patches in the wall where the holes were! As I zoomed in on the facades, nothing looks like anything had been replaced, yet in my 1977 photo I can clearly see 4 holes in the wall over the fire escapes, I only remember removing one because it was way up in Harlem and quite a bike ride up there, the window on the upper floor over the fire escape clearly shows my usual hole in the wall digging down from above and removing the bricks above and behind to pull the keystone up and in.
So I thought, well there’s new building a block further up on that side of the street, maybe somehow I got 99th street mixed up with 100th street, but the old Bromley fire insurance map for that block doesn’t jive for that scenario as it had 24 foot wide lots with 24 foot wide buildings having 4 windows across, the 1977 photo and the map shows 99th street having 40 foot wide buildings with 6 windows across, so it’s the right block, and in the 1977 view the corner building was gone- just a vacant lot and in the street view is a new high rise building there.
Now that’s plain wierd, and it means that somehow exact antique replacements were found (unlikely) and installed in the holes, or they hired Boston Valley to replicate them- possible but VERY costly, and these tenements were not historic or anything of the sort.
99th St 2nd Ave, ca 1977
99th St 2nd Ave, 2018
Detail of one of the lion keystones.
I don’t have an explanation for how the holes were filled up and the 4 lions I know that were removed are back in the wall as replicas or who knows!
I decided some time ago to “phase out” concrete for several reasons, some include the fact the material is not stocked by any local outfits to me, which always meant having to drive to another town whose building supply/lumber yard stocks it- an18 mile drive each way. It also tends to be a seasonal product since nobody pours concrete here when it’s 10 degrees outside, so if they have any bags of Portland cement at that lumberyard in the winter or early spring it’s been sitting in their unheated warehouse for months absorbing moisture which causes lumps and poor curing.
I never used enough of it to use up whole bags and it doesn’t store well at all, even sealed up in plastic bags it still winds up absorbing moisture from the air and becomes all but unusable in a few weeks and I wound up throwing away significant quantities.
There was one period a few years ago where a bunch of clients ordered concrete all at the same time, so I decided to buy a pallet worth- 40 bags 50# each from the local place who agreed to order and deliver it, but then after it was delivered, nobody ordered concrete, so it all sat stacked in the basement and after a few months it was all unusable, I wound up burying about 35 bags of it because the garbage man won’t take the stuff and there’s no place to dispose of it either.
I decided I’m not going to mess with concrete any further, way too much hassle, and it adds considerably to the shipping costs. The idea of phasing it out was mainly to replace it with hand-pressed kiln fired terracotta, so far about a dozen designs are available in this permanent, more valuable material. Concrete being just a cheap material has no intrinsic value to it.
I removed all references I found to concrete on my web sites, and in the price list, if any remain beyond a single sitting dog cast I have stored away that is for sale, it was an oversight on my part.
With remodeling the basement studio and installing new shelving, I kept having to move this large model from 2013 which is still unfired, very fragile clay, and has not been molded yet, so I started looking at it again with an eye to making changes to it.
I decided to finally do something to it, and that was to remove the large projecting cornice section and flatten the top surface. It included beefing up the ears a bit as well, but now with that change, pressed terracotta of it would fit in my kiln at least, so the goal now is to finish patching the top edge now, and then looking into making molds for pressing later this summer.
I have been working behind the scenes on revamping my web sites and old page content, including removing the old forum and links to the gallery building which was sold several years ago. I’ve also been working on a new store layout with WordPress and Woocommerce, more to do to it yet, but it should be a big improvement.
Some links may have changed, some older ones may not work, and some pages have been changed as well.
After some 17 years with Ebay, it’s become obvious over the last few years that the entire site has deteriorated considerably into an abyss of the same spammy cluttering garbage made worse by their changing the format from having to pay for the listings and renewing them every 10 days, to making them free to list and perpetual listings until the item sells.
As a result, peoples’ junk and garage sale finds sits up there now for weeks, months, even YEARS just stagnating and wasting space and gaming the search. Now if you just “browse” a category you might be looking at “page 1 of 8,923 pages” and if you search for something specific, you still get a plethora of crap and unrelated junk you have to wade through to find anything.
I’ve pretty much decided to wind it down on there, deleting 50 out of the 55 listings I had up there, and now my focus will be on my own web site as the point of contact.
We’ll see how that works out, but Ebay is basically dead, nothing moves on there any more.
I have another of these keystones out of the kiln and she looks great! Unforttunately this keystone is just large enough I can’t really fit anything else in the kiln with it, so it winds up being the only sculpture in the firing cycle.
Now I have about 3 of each terracotta design on hand in inventory, so clients won’t have to wait several weeks for one to be made.
I have all the old wood shelving replaced with these nice metal rack shelving units I’m very happy with!
Fresh out of the kiln, now I have three of them on hand ready to ship.
The owl panel came out of the kiln nicely, the design has a lot of undercuts and opposing angles to it, which required a fairly complicated mold, and removing the sections of the mold is tricky, as a result this sculpture requires a considerable amount of time detailing and refining it, removing seam lines etc.
I have two fired, and two more drying to be fired in a couple of weeks.
The first panel is fired now and looks good, it is 18-1/2″ long and about 21 pounds.
I just finished pressing the first sculpture in the new mold, with the fan playing across the back on low to start drying the clay from the back and inside, in an hour or two she should be firmed up enough to remove from the mold.
It took about 30# of clay to make.
Since I had a gallon of mold rubber left sitting around I decided to use it to make a rubber positive of my angel panel. Poured it in some 6 hours ago and now I have my rubber positive ready to go.
Probably Friday afternoon I’ll work on the plaster piece mold of this so I can make them in pressed fired terracotta too.
With the mold finished, I will be able to start pressing some terracotta soon!
Shipping out my nurse roundel to a repeat client Mon or Tues who is giving it as a gift to a friend of his who is a nurse and refused promotions to remain a nurse!
This is a densite plaster cast from a mold made from my clay original model which was based on an extant architectural sculpture on the facade of the former St Vincent’s Hospital nurses’ residence building in NYC.
The cast was given a colored tint, and then with my multi-step finishing process and techniques it was made to look just like these sculptures do on 125 year old building facades in the city.
This will be shipping in a wood crate.
I made 3 videos today, all time-lapse.
Removing the mold;
Cleaning up the architectural pressed clay terracotta grotesque sculpture;
Pressing a terracotta architectural owl panel sculpture;