This is another post illustrating some of my photographs taken last year. During my wanders about New York City in 2014, it seems that representations of eagles and a few other winged beasts kept vying for my attention.
I share fourteen of these with you, ordered chronologically by approximate date of production, since I could think of no better way to organize them.
|Trophée d’Armes, Fort Jay, Governor’s Island, NYC, 1790s|
Taken together, these elements symbolize the State of New York as well as America, and this monument may, indeed, be among the oldest monumental pieces of carved stone intended to represent our young country.
The eagle had only became an official symbol of the United States a decade earlier, in 1782, when William Barton suggested that it be the main feature of the country’s Great Seal. Among its competition for this honor had been the turkey, favored by Benjamin Franklin.
|Owls & Globe, Ottendorfer Branch Library, 135 2nd Avenue, Manhattan, NYC, 1884|
The Ottendorfer is located in what, then, was known as “Little Germany,” or Kleindeutschland, an area south of 14th Street and east of the Bowery. Assimilation, as much as learning, was the library’s intention; and so, of its original bequest of 8,000 volumes, half were in German and half were in English.
This elegant, floriated string course featuring Owls and Globes, alludes to the wisdom and knowledge gained through book-learning. It also represents one of the earliest applications of terra-cotta ornament in New York City architecture.
|Eagle with Flags, Target & Rifles, German-American Shooting Society, 12 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC, 1889|
|Bat, Anonymous Stonecarver, Leech House, 520 West End Avenue, Manhattan, NYC, 1892|
This wonderful bat, squatting, wings outspread, dominates its foliated window sill, just east of the residence’s main entrance. With a permanent winged greeter like this, one hardly needs Halloween decorations.
|Phoenix, FDNY: Engine 55 Fire Station, 363 Broome St., Manhattan NYC, 1899|
|Lunette with Eagle, 124 2nd Avenue, Manhattan, NYC, late 19th-early 20th century|
The American architect and theorist, Robert Venturi and his partners surely would have seen this eagle as a precursor for their concept of the “decorated shed:” a building whose space and structure serve a straightforward, functional program, but then it displays applied ornament which bears no relationship to that program.
|Eagle Plaque, Heins & LaFarge, 33rd Street Station (#6 Train), Manhattan, NYC, ca. 1903|
This Eagle Plaque, made in Boston at the Grueby Faience Co., was to be found in several of New York’s subway stations of the Lexington Line, among them, the 14th Street and the Brooklyn Bridge stations. I see it as a strong, simplified version of the Great Seal of the United States, put to use as a station marker.
|Eagle, Hamilton Fountain, Warren & Wetmore, Riverside Drive at West 76th Street, Manhattan, NYC, 1906|
The Hamilton Fountain is among the few, remaining horse troughs that once served the City. It’s donor, Robert Ray Hamilton, was a great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton.
At one time, the fountain also fed a trough in Riverside Park, directly below it to the west, a discovery made only seven years ago.
|Eagle in Pediment, N Y County National Bank (orig.), 14th Street & 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NYC, 1907|
The original architect of the bank was Rudolph Daus, who set up his own studio in Brooklyn in 1884, after having worked in the studios of Richard Morris Hunt and George B. Post.
|Eagle on Rostral Column, Graham Triangle, Menconi Brothers, 3rd Avenue & 139th Street, Bronx, NYC, 1921|
|Eagle with Gospel of John + Symbols of the 4 Evangelists, Wheel Window, Church of St. John Nepomucene, 411 East 66th Street, Manhattan, NYC, 1925|
Architect John Van Pelt, using brick and limestone to convey a rustic flavor, designed this church dedicated to the 14th century Bohemian saint, John of Nepomuk, in a style that references southern Italian Romanesque architecture.
Here, above the main entrance, we see an eagle standing on the top of an arch holding a Gospel book; farther up, we see the four winged beasts, emblematic of the Four Evangelists, flanking the large wheel window.
|Winged Wheel, Parking Garage Entry, West 101st Street, Manhattan, NYC, 1920s|
The closest approximation is the Detroit Red Wings logo (also a winged, spoked wheel), but that is shown in pure profile. Maybe it refers to a specific early 20th century urban parking system. If not, then it at least is a commendable artistic expenditure that tells everyone, “automobiles welcome here.”
|9/11/01 Mural, Scott LoBaido, Smith & Garnet Streets, Gowanus, Brooklyn, NYC, ca. 2002 ff|
During 2006, over ten months, in his Flags Across America project, Scott LoBaido drove across the United States and painted a large American flag on one rooftop in every state. His stated purpose was to insure that returning soldiers, flying home, would be greeted by the flag.
|Bald Eagle, Peter Daverington, Part of the Audubon Mural Project, Storefront at 3623 Broadway, Manhattan, NYC, 2014|
Moving ahead some 170+ years, in September of 2014, the National Audubon Society issued its analysis of how the birds of America will (or might) respond to climate change. This report, Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report, caught the attention of Avi Gitler, a local gallery owner.
Gitler proposed commissioning artists to paint bird murals on the roll-up steel security gates of local businesses in the neighborhoods adjacent to Audubon’s final residence, thus piquing interest in the plight of America’s birds.
This is an on-going project, and it apparently has grown from an initial concept of a dozen birds to, now, an eventual depiction of each of the 314 species that the Report identifies as endangered.
I offer one of the earlier contributions, Peter Daverington‘s Bald Eagle, here rather dramatically lit by the early morning sun.
Leave a Comment