Today, after 30 years on the Upper East Side I settled in to my new home in Los Angeles. I will continue to write from here but for my farewell to the UES I am going to reveal some never before seen faces…
The building I grew up in, 4 East 88th Street, has been referred to as NYC’s finest example of neo-federalist architecture by the Carnegie Hill Neighbors Architectural Guide. Designed by Electus D. Litchfield and erected in 1922, the building features a “broken pediment” whose void, just atop the awning, is filled by a carved stone “potpourri” of heads.
No one seems to know for sure who these heads represent. It has been suggested that they are American patriots or that one is Electus Litchfield, the architect himself. I have also only read or heard the head count at four to five even though at least four are clearly visible from the street. But, lucky for me the sculpture sits in one of my family’s windows and during some recent construction I leaned out the window (over a scaffolding and set off an alarm) and photographed the heads as best I could.
There are 8 heads. They go all the way around as if the sculpture was meant to sit on a table or in a garden with all sides visible, and not up against a wall. Unfortunately, their condition has deteriorated over the years and you can see some repairs are also deteriorating. So far I have looked for Litchfield’s records regarding this building in his archives at Columbia University’s Avery Library to try to find out where he acquired the sculpture. The records for this building were not at Avery but there is a chance they could be in the archives at the Met Museum – a task for when I visit my parents in NYC or maybe a task for Christopher Gray.
Anyway, without further ado, I present to you all eight heads.
1. The Topper…
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You know those benches at “Engineer’s Gate” at 90th Street and Fifth Avenue where you enter the loop and the bridal path and the reservoir? Check out the detailing UNDER the benches. They really don’t make things like they used to.
Andrew Alpern gave a talk at the New York Public Library a few weeks ago about the newest edition of his book “Holdouts! The Buildings That Got in the Way.” He ended with a neutral statement: “Holdouts are neither all good nor all bad. They simply are.” But it seemed to me that his sentiments leaned toward the negative.
Alpern opened his illustrated presentation with the image of a lonely, two-story building on an otherwise cleared city block, saying, “This is not a holdout. It is the container of a holdout.”
Holdouts are the people who refuse to sell their property to make way for new developments. You can see the results of holdouts throughout the city, wherever a tiny building is squished between two towers (one example: 592 Eighth Avenue).
This sort of sight always makes me smile; I think I would like to live in the little building. Read more →
Just noticed this brick signage on the South side of Saks Fifth Avenue on 49th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue for the first time!
What the heck is up with this door?
321 E 92nd Street:
Also, I think this scroll-hip is pretty sexy. Reminds me of some surrealist stuff.
1105 Park Avenue:
So, in case you didn’t know, I make jewelry (www.rebeccaschiffmanjewelry.com) and my new “Upper East Side Collection” is based on architectural ornament in the neighborhood. I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to get enough pre-orders to be able to pay for some equipment, materials and promotional costs. There are only 7 days left. Please check out my Kickstarter video and page.
The Upper East Side Collection on Kickstarter
Here are some examples of the collection so far:
19 East 88th Street:
1041 Park Avenue:
Building photos taken by Brandon Perlman on medium format film. Some guy at 1021 Park Avenue, possible the super, threatened to call the police while we were taking a photo from across the street on the Park Avenue median.
Jewelry photos by Evan Miller.
Raccoons on Fifth Ave and 86th Street