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.
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.
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.
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.