The Monsters of Wall St.

20 William Street

This building was originally spotted from Broadway. I don't know whether these looming, brooding heads remind me more of the figures on Easter Island, or the American Express centurion, but they certainly were intriguing enough to make me take the detour down William Street to investigate.

The streets of lower Manhattan are insane and amusing. They're really just impossible little alleyways that one suspects started out as cow paths, and now they're lined head to toe with huge, self-important buildings that block out the sun. During the business week there's the bustle of suits and the rush of money and everything is terribly important. I find it rather funny that these oh-so-serious financial folks are racing about on former cow paths with silly ornamental owls and jaguars perched over their heads. And they don't even know it. But I walked down William Street on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and the sidewalks were empty, and all that were left were the buildings themselves, standing still and patient for me to examine at leisure.

74 Wall Street

Winding back towards Broadway, I decided not to follow streets, but monsters, and came across this building covered with nautical imagery.

The doorway is lined with larger square carved figures like the fish at left, while if you come around the side of the building (which was in the midst of being cleaned during my visit) you'll see a series of round medallions like this seahorse, mermaids and more.

56-58 Pine Street

When it comes to architectural details, my two favorite things in the world are suns and green men. Well, I was practically jumping up and down (okay, small confession, I actually *was* jumping up and down) when I saw these two little connected buildings on Pine Street.

The terra cotta details were both so unexpected and so lovely in their own right. Pine Street is quite narrow, so I had to do a bit of running around to shoot these images. There was a man (himself startling on these otherwise empty streets) sitting on the 3-staired stoop of 56 Pine, directly underneath the large terra cotta head. He was looking at me oddly as I ran around shooting creatures so I paused to explain, "there are so many good monsters out today." Now, I expect that was a rather breathless explanation to give a complete stranger on Pine Street on a summer Sunday afternoon, but he smiled and looked up at the terra cotta head and although I don't think he had noticed it before, he seemed charmed by it now.

55 Liberty Street

I was awfully glad I had a video camera with a good zoom when I spotted *this* mischievous critter from a distance. This fellow's figure rings 55 Liberty Street at intervals, way up near the roof (I nearly had to bend over backwards to get him). Now here's one of the things that I find so amazing and *neat* about gargoyles and the like that are placed in locations like this. You can't make out what they are from the ground. What are they doing up there? Who are they for?

The whimsy on 55 Liberty doesn't end with the roof gremlins though. Have a look at this friendly doorway 'gator (or is he a croc?) And inside the lobby (I wish it weren't so dark inside because there were also some lovely murals of the city) were odd little cringing creatures like this in the upper corners.

111-115 Broadway (Trinity & U.S. Realty Buildings)

Here's another set of connected buildings with good monsters. Of course these two are huge things, with quite a hodgepodge of gargoyles and details. As with most of the monsters on this somewhat improvised tour, it was the high spouts that caught my attention first. There are also some copper spouts along a drainage gutter line, but they were too high up for my equipment to capture clearly enough to be of any use. Trust me, they're up there, and a decent pair of binoculars will confirm the fact.

Down nearer to eye level, along the side of the U.S. Realty building (and I presume its neighbor, although I didn't have time to check both the buildings) are what I've come to call "noble occupational figures". One of these days when and if I ever get any free time, I shall have to make a trip to the library to find out what all these details I've been struggling to describe are actually called. In the meantime, I figure it's more important to capture the damn things than it is to attribute them absolutely properly.

225 Broadway (Transportation Building)

This may be a tidbit of no interest to anybody but myself, but I spent a summer working inside 225 Broadway, in the office of a lawyer friend of my older brother's. Actually, most of the offices in this building seem to be lawyers and the like, so I'm rather curious as to what was originally housed here that it's called The Transportation Building. (Note: my ever-wise older brother Lowell has now informed me that several of the major railroads had their offices here. Ah, makes sense.)

Dwarfed by the neighboring Woolworth Building, in both size and recognition, 225 Broadway has a handsome doorway with vaguely Etruscan looking figures of men and horses. The doors of the elevators in the lobby are also lovely, although too dark to photograph well on this day.

233 Broadway (Woolworth Building)

The Woolworth Building built in 1913 and 57 stories high, enjoyed the title of 'world's tallest building' for a time, and it is still a beloved New York City landmark.

It's also well-covered with figures. The spouts are typically highly placed and majestic looking. The side of the building along Barclay Street, has a repeating series of large human heads, representing the various races of humankind.

The other area of high ornamentation is the main doorway. The entrance is very tall, arched, and inset with "noble occupational figures", and also with this tree, which I couldn't help but think of as a "Disney Tree"- the type that will suddenly yawn and stretch, pop open cartoon eyes in the center of his trunk, reach out his limbs, and grab any unsuspecting souls walking through the woods.

111 Park Row

I didn't notice the spout on this building (part of Pace University's scatter of properties in the area) until I was heading towards the subway after shooting the Woolworth building. I started across the street, happened to look up, and *zing*, there he was! So I ran across City Hall park, and I grabbed 'im.

6 Beekman

Okay, I just threw this one in as a bonus because each time I pass this beauty of a building I think to myself 'geez, I wish there were monsters here so I could put this building up on my page.

Now normally I don't go for super-heavy decoration, but somehow this building strikes just the right balance of gorgeous terra cotta scrollwork detail, and dignity. And in the end, of course, it is my page, so here for everyone's pleasure, is 6 Beekman Place.

Neighborhood Notes: The Wall Street/City Hall area is teeming with history, and the buildings show it. Keep looking up! Want more? Return to The Monster Walks.

Copyright © 2003, Amelia Wilson. All rights reserved.