Today, after 30 years on the Upper East Side, I settled into 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 only read or heard the head count at four to five, and only four are easily visible from the street. But, lucky for me, the sculpture sits in one our windows, and during some recent construction I was able to lean out safely over some scaffolding (setting off an alarm in the process) and photograph 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 – not up against a wall. Unfortunately, their condition has deteriorated over the years and you can see some repairs are also deteriorating. I have looked through all of the Litchfield papers at Columbia University’s Avery Library to find out where he acquired the sculpture, but unfortunately the records for this building are not part of the collection. Perhaps this is a task for Christopher Gray.
Anyway, without further ado, I present to you all eight heads.