• West Side Highway (Miller) Art Deco model

    I think I will go ahead and start this model I planned to do back in Dec 2015 but didn’t get past setting up the form for the shape.
    The model was to depict one of the large cast-iron Art Deco styled ornaments once gracing the elevated West Side (Miller) Highway that ran along Manhattan’s West coast along the Hudson (North) River. The elevated highway was built starting at the end of the 1920s and construction of additional extensions continued into the 30s.
    The city hired noted sculptor Rene Chambellain to model replicas of the 5 historic city charter seals as well as these ornamental pieces at the foor of each street to have the street name and shipping pier number. For this model I chose the Desbrosses St/ pier 29-31 because the Library of Congress has a set of high res tif photos of this detail taken around 1968 for the Historic American Building Survey program (HABS)
    Chambellain made plaster models of these for approval and casting in iron. The “wings” of the piece span about 16 feet, so these were massive pieces!
    Above the “wings” under the top railing is a separate ornament with “wings” and an hour glass motif, I owned 2 of those at one point and they weighed a little over 500# each!
    The design symbolizes the machine age and air flight, which in the 20s was still fairly new. An alternated design to the hourglass on that were those having a set of 3 propellors.
    The highway and it’s iron superstructure was so poorly maintained by the city that by 1973 a 100 foot long section of the roadway collapsed onto the streets below under the weight of an asphalt truck ironically on it’s way to a paving repair further up the highway. The cause was corrosion from poor maintenance, and the elevated highway was closed permanently and demolished in stages over 20 years.
    My model will have “torn” ragged side edges symbolic of how the highway was cut up into sections, ripped apart and scrapped.
    Only one of these large ornaments apparently survives installed on the facade of a city pier, all the others were scrapped.
    “Desbrosses Street” was named after an influential local family by that name who oddly enough and despite contemporary attempts to pronounce it differently, according to the 1892 book “Everyday English” By Grant White- they pronounced their name “De’ broose”