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Thread: Terra-cotta in New York City

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    Walkabout: Terra-Cotta Revisited, part 2


    Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Lafayette Ave, at Clermont. Fort Greene.
    Lord and Hewlett, Pell and Corbett, architects. 1906


    Entryway, The Griffin Apartments. Lafayette Ave at So. Oxford.
    Architect not recorded. 1931-32.



    Deco relief on retail store building. Nostrand Ave at Park Place, Crown Heights North.
    Architect unknown. 1930's



    Ornate terra-cotta trim on commercial building. Nostrand Ave at Sterling Pl. Crown Heights North.
    Architect unknown. 1930's.

    Tuesday’s look at terra-cotta ornament dealt with natural, brick colored terra-cotta. That’s what most of us think of when we hear the term. But in addition to that more familiar medium, terra-cotta also can also be glazed in any color imaginable, as well as white. We may not realize it, but we see other kinds of terra-cotta every day.

    By 1900, New York City was beginning to become the skyscraper filled towering city we know today. That iconic look would have been impossible without terra-cotta. Some of the early 20th century icons of Manhattan architecture; the Woolworth Building, the Flatiron Building, the Bayard Building, and many others, especially in lower Manhattan, were built with terra-cotta sheathing and ornament. The process from an architect’s design through the model making process, through figuring out the composition of the clay from an engineering prospective, through production, and finally shipping, is fascinating, and involved many skilled and unskilled workers, all working to provide tons of finished product. The Queens-based Atlantic Terra-Cotta Company and the Perth Amboy Terra-Cotta Company, in New Jersey, as well as the other New Jersey companies, were busy day and night, with materials coming in and shipments going out by barge continuously.

    After seeing what was possible in natural, and white glazed terra-cotta, it was natural to wonder about color. After all, pottery was fired in all kinds of glazes, why not ornamental architectural terra-cotta? By the late 1890’s the Perth Amboy T-C Co. had several colors of glaze, and polychrome terra-cotta began to be experimented with by architects, often with great degrees of success. In Brooklyn, two of the most spectacular of these early efforts are the Brooklyn Academy of Music, built by Herts and Tallent in 1908, and the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in Fort Greene, built in 1908-9, by Lord and Hewlett, and Pell and Corbett.

    Both projects utilized polychrome terra-cotta from the Atlantic Terra Cotta Co. The rich and varied polychrome ornament on both buildings still is impressive, and showed the variety of style and color available to the architect and customer. A piece in the NY Times in 1911 read “Color Spreads Glories on City’s Architecture”. Color began to show up on buildings, on tiles in subways, and as ornament inside public areas of hotels and other commercial buildings, often in concert with brilliant white glazed terra-cotta. Some other early 20th century Brooklyn examples include the white glazed Prospect Park Boathouse by Frank Helmle, in 1904, the Thompson Meter Company on Bridge St, in DUMBO, and the Public Bath No. 7, on 4th Avenue. Churches, such as St. Ambrose in Bed Stuy, now Mt. Pisgah Baptist, and St. Gregory's in Crown Heights North, are beautifully ornamented in glazed terra-cotta.

    By the late 1920’s, into the 1930’s, the Art Deco Movement had taken architecture to places unknown, with shapes and motifs so unlike that of the previous century. Polychrome terra-cotta ornament was a big part of this movement, as was the use of cement colored terra-cotta. In spite of this interest in polychrome ornament at this time, it still remained rare compared to the use of terra-cotta in stone finishes. I confess, I was surprised to learn that much of what I thought was carved stone in early to mid 20th century buildings is actually terra-cotta, and it is extremely hard to tell the difference between the two. In Brooklyn, from this time period we have the Griffin Apartments in Fort Greene, Child’s Restaurant in Coney Island, the Studebaker Building in Crown Heights, and many other smaller storefronts and commercial venues. Movie theatres were often highly decorated in terra-cotta, as shown in two Crown Heights theatres. The Depression halted a lot of building projects, but many WPA projects executed in the city utilized terra-cotta as murals and reliefs on buildings, and Robert Moses’ parks projects commissioned thousands of glazed terra-cotta signs for restrooms and other public venues.

    But by the end of World War II, the terra-cotta business had trickled away to next to nothing. Ornament in modern architecture was anathema, and there just wasn’t enough business to keep the larger factories going, as glass and steel replaced brick and terra-cotta. Today, the only thing remaining of the 5 acre waterfront Atlantic Terra-Cotta Company is the building once housing the office. The massive row of kilns and the factory buildings are long gone. Today, only two major manufacturers remain the Boston Valley Terra-Cotta Company in Orchard Park, NY, and Gladding, McBean and Co. in California. They both manufacture new product, and restore historic buildings. We can still find glazed and polychrome terra-cotta in unexpected places, especially in buildings built in the early 20th century. Take a look around. Maybe clean a brick or some ornament with your sleeve and see the sheen of a ceramic glaze. It’s there.

    See my Flickr page for more fine examples.

    For more information and great photographs of terra-cotta in New York City, please see Susan Tunik's excellent book Terra-Cotta Skyline, and for more information on terra-cotta and preserving our t-c buildings, see the Friends of Terra-Cotta website.

    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownston...ut_terra_1.php

  2. #47
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    Default The New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works

    What a shame that, despite landmarking in 1982, this beautiful building hasn't been restored. Hardly "maintained" by Citibank .




    Look what was lost :



    The New York Architectural Terra Cotta Company Building, at 42-10 - 42-16 Vernon Boulevard in the shadows of the Queensboro Bridge, was designed by Francis H. Kimball in 1892.

    The New York Architectural Terra Cotta Company was one of the leading manufacturers of terra cotta between 1886, when the firm was founded, and 1928, when it went bankrupt. The company manufactured terra cotta for such landmarks as the Ansonia Hotel and Carnegie Hall.

    This small office building displays the range and potential of the products manufactured by the company. Kimball was a pioneer in the use of ornamental terra cotta, as can be seen, for eample in his Montauk Club in Park Slope, also fabricated by this firm.

    The New York Architectural Terra Cotta Company Building was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1982.

    National Historic Register #88000539 (1988)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/1092546725/


    The Terracotta House, or… what is that?

    (click on photos to go to Flickr for larger versions)


    New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works, LIC

    After an apocalyptic fire in 1886, the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works needed a new headquarters. One that befit its role as the preeminent manufacturer of architectural ceramics.

    Built in 1892 as an office for the company that supplied terra-cotta for Carnegie Hall and the Ansonia Hotel, among others. The company went out of business in the 1930s, and the building became vacant. It was eventually bought in 1965 by Citibank. Its ruins can be found at 42-10 – 42-16 Vernon Avenue, across the street from the sumptuous hedonism of the newly opened Ravel Hotel, and next door to the venerable and recently feted span of the Queensboro Bridge. It was landmarked in 1982.

    Two and one half stories, the structure is actually the front office of an industrial complex that was once surrounded by a 12 foot high wall of brick, which enclosed an open storage yard, a 5 story factory, and the kilnworks one would expect to find at such a large endeavor. Its satisfying design was crafted by Francis H. Kimball, architect of the celebrated Montauk Club in Brooklyn, and it is in the Tudor Revival Style.



    In preparation of the forthcoming Silvercup west project, the City of New York is compelled to conduct archaeological surveys by state law, seeking any evidence of pre-contact native american artitfacts. The area is a likely choice for such artifacts, as 10th street (800 ft or so from here) is the site of a former stream that ran though an elevated section of the marshy land typical of western Queens on its course to the East River. Nothing aboriginal was found, but the presence of large scale 19th century industry would have likely obliterated anything that might have been there.

    Notable forebears of the Terra-Cotta works in this area were the Wallach Mansion, and the Long Island Farms Orphans Schoolhouse – a city owned 4 building asylum which burned to ash in 1847. Ravenswood was a neighborhood of fine riverside estates by the 1860’s, and Willy Wallach wanted the site for one of his own. By the late 1880’s, after the 800 pound gorilla came to Long Island City, an ideal place for locating an industrial operation was in this neighborhood of former mansions. The New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works company purchased the Wallach estate and the neighboring Gottlieb estate.



    After the Terra-Cotta Works ended its incorporation, no doubt due to the seismic collapse of the national economy in 1932, the facilities enjoyed a diverse career under its owner- RIchard Dalton. First- it continued manufacture of terra cotta ornaments for use in New York City Parks (when Robert Moses was in charge) as the Eastern Terra Cotta Company, second- in 1950 it began to serve as a sorting center for plastic waste and the bailing of waste paper, and finally- in something curiously named “electronics operations”. Dalton used the building for his personal offices until he died in 1965, and his heirs sold the property to Citibank. Spared demolition in 1976, Terra-Cotta House was orphaned when the rest of the site was obliterated by a wrecking crew.

    The building was landmarked in 1982, and is maintained by Citibank.
    The Silvercup West people plan on this being a charming feature for their development of the area. At the time of its glory, New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works was the fourth largest employer in Long Island City. By the early 1970’s the place was abandoned and overgrown, forgotten by area residents. Local activists fought for and gained it landmark status in 1982.

    Click here for the Silvercup West FEIS

    Check out an old New York Times article on the Terracotta House.



    The NYT article:

    Cityscape: The New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works; A Jewel in the Shadow Of the Queensboro Bridge


    By CHRISTOPHER GRAY

    Published: March 29, 1987

    [Text deleted]

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/03/29/re...ueensboro.html


    It looks so forlorn :



    from Scouting NY article
    Last edited by Edward; February 15th, 2012 at 04:46 PM. Reason: Text deleted

  3. #48
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    Default Pershing Square Building

    Meet Me Beneath the War Angels

    By CHRISTOPHER GRAY









    slide show

    Q. On Park Avenue at 42nd Street, one sees magnificent, huge terra-cotta full-length male figures on the facade of the building at the southeast corner. Although the ground-floor facade has been insensitively modernized, the rest of the facade is extraordinary.

    Can you give me any information about this grand edifice? ... Tim Gastineau, Manhattan

    A. The Pershing Square Building, completed in 1923, is a sublime masterpiece of brick and terra cotta, all buff and yellow and brown.

    It takes its name from Pershing Square, one of the least-used addresses in New York. The section of 42nd Street directly in front of Grand Central was named that in December 1918, a month after the end of World War I, in honor of the commander of the American forces in France, John J. Pershing.

    The developer Henry Mandel, who later built London Terrace, put up the Pershing Square Building, designed by the architect John Sloan in the Romanesque style. The Atlantic Terra Cotta Company supplied material for the building, and in 1923 its journal noted that Mr. Sloan worked to create the look of a hand-made structure, saying the clay was “purposely roughened for kiln burning to help out the rugged texture.”

    Mr. Sloan’s decoration is sophisticated and easy to miss. The intricate, cross-set brickwork plays against sinuous guilloche patterns and cross-banded columns, with inner bands of leaf work and guilloche patterning.

    The helmeted figures along the fifth-floor level, are “war angels,” according to Richard Wilson Cameron, a designer and a founder of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. He says the caduceus held by one alludes to the caduceator, or peace commissioner, a term of Roman times. The figure also holds a cornucopia, suggesting the benefits of a prospective peace. At various locations the letter P is superimposed over a square form — Pershing Square. The whole facade works together as a tawny tapestry of the art of clay.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/re...04streets.html

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    Last edited by Derek2k3; May 31st, 2010 at 10:24 PM.

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    Yay!

    Too bad most of it is GFR concrete now.

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    Building of the Day: 177 Livingston Street


    177 Livingston St. at Gallatin Place. Downtown Brooklyn.
    George L. Morse, architect. 1885.




    Close up of arched windows and Byzantine Leaf terra-cotta ornament on the Gallatin Place side of building.





    Address: 177 Livingston Street, on corner of Gallatin Place
    Name: Office Building
    Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
    Year Built: 1885
    Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
    Architects: George L. Morse
    Landmarked: No

    Why chosen: There are some great buildings in the Downtown Fulton St. area, most obscured by signage and “modern” facades, this one is one of my favorites. It's virtually untouched by the so called improvements of the day, mostly because it's on Livingston St. which is barely traveled, compared to Fulton. It was built as part of Abraham and Straus, which in its day stretched across 7 separate buildings in the block between Fulton, Livingston, Gallatin and Hoyt. This building is a Romanesque Revival beauty, with alternating colored brick bands, a rounded corner, and those wonderful arches with heavy, ornate terra-cotta Byzantine Leaf trim worthy of Chicago's Louis Sullivan. Look at the closeups, this work is stunning, and miraculously, intact. The often overlooked George Morse was a stealth master architect, producing great work like this building and the Franklin Trust building in the Romanesque Revival style, then moving on to design the Temple Bar Building on Court Street in a gloriously original Renaissance and Classical Revival style, adding to the great buildings of Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. This building is no longer part of A &S/Macy's, and recently underwent a gut reno, and is awaiting new office tenants on at least one floor.

    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownston..._of_the_68.php

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    thanks for this great thread - wow!

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    Last edited by Edward; February 15th, 2012 at 04:47 PM. Reason: Full text by Christopher Gray deleted

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    Magnificent row, but they always seem to ruin the ground floor .


    Building of the Day: 405-425 Rogers Avenue


    405-425 Rogers Avenue, between Lefferts and Sterling. Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
    Louis Berger and Co. Architects, 1907.









    Address: 405-425 Rogers Avenue, between Sterling and Lefferts
    Name: Flats buildings
    Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
    Year Built: 1907
    Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Classical detail
    Architects: Lewis Berger and Co.
    Landmarked: Yes

    Why chosen:
    This group of flats buildings is exceptional. They, along with the far less ornate buildings across the street, were built by Louis Berger for developer Charles Lerner. With the exception of the two anchor buildings on the ends of the blocks, they are all classic dumbbell tenement flats buildings, with an air shaft in the middle of the adjoining buildings to allow light. Originally, they had two apartments per floor, which ran the length of the building. These were built for the new middle class population coming to this area of Brooklyn after the building of the subways in the late 1880's-early 1900's.

    Developers knew their prospective clients wanted nice, “quality” looking buildings, and Berger and Lerner were highly influenced by the prevailing White Cities Movement, and its use of lighter colored building materials and Classical details. The facades of these buildings are bursting with fine terra-cotta Classical busts of Minerva-like goddesses with laurel leaf wreaths, swags, elaborate keystones, arched windows,and an ocean of dolphins, which are symbols of prosperity and hospitality. By the 1960's and 70's, half of these buildings were sealed up and abandoned, and photos from Property Shark in 2007 show them being gutted and reborn, at least two of them a part of a HUD program.

    Remarkably, almost all of the exterior detail on the entire row has survived, from the ornament to the cornices and doorways. These buildings have been landmarked since 1979, preserved at a crucial time in this neighborhood's social and economic history. They really are great.

    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownston...of_the_145.php

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    Just across the street (to the east) from the Deutsche Bank rubble.

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    36 Gramercy Park East
    Built: 1908-10
    Designed by: James Reily Gordon
    Address: 36 Gramercy Park East
    Landmark status: within Gramercy Park Historic District and Extension, designated 1966/1988











    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2010/1...amercy-east-15

    http://therealdeal.com/newyork/artic...ng-to-go-condo


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnie_s/5082541883/


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nest_se...7622999497852/

    STREETSCAPES/36 Gramercy Park East; Deep in the Heart of Texas, A Glimpse of Old New York

    October 24, 2004

    By CHRISTOPHER GRAY

    GENEALOGISTS know that relatively few records exist about average people. Architectural historians know that while there is extensive documentation on important structures, like the Woolworth or Chrysler Buildings, it's much harder to find detailed information on the average buildings that make up much of our streetscape.

    But not many people are aware that a trove of drawings, specifications, photographs and other data exist on one lesser-known structure -- the 1909 apartment building at 36 Gramercy Park East. The information sheds light on the real world of turn-of-the-20th-century construction in New York City, but it's hardly a surprise that the material is little known -- it is part of an archive of more than 8,000 drawings and photographs from the architectural office of James Riely Gordon, and it's in Texas.

    In 1908, John E. Olsen, a contractor, had Gordon begin work on a 12-story building at 36 Gramercy Park East, overlooking the private, gated park. The building was planned as a co-op, with apartments of 8 to 10 rooms. In 1909, The Real Estate Record and Guide reported that the new building's interiors were varied in style, ''Old English, Colonial, French and Italian Renaissance, Louis XIV, XV and XVI.''

    But the exterior is a startling expression of the Gothic, a huge, white, lacy terra cotta screen of pointed arches, gargoyles, bosses, shields and other elements of a style that was gaining popularity because it was suited to the vertical character of the new, taller buildings -- the Woolworth Building was completed in 1913 in a very similar style. Apartments at the Gramercy Park building were advertised for sale at $8,900 to $12,000, and some were rented at $2,350 to $3,168 a year.

    FULL ARTICLE

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    In Detail> Shepard Hall

    Elemental gives George B. Post's Gothic City College landmark a long-in-coming restoration, gargoyles and all

    Aaron Seward


    The Gothic revival Shepard Hall in Hamilton Heights, built in 1907, has new glass fiber-reinforced
    concrete decorative trim in place of original terra cotta.
    Courtesy Elemental

    Designed by George B. Post and completed in 1907, City College’s Shepard Hall is in all probability the most faithful specimen of English Perpendicular Gothic revival architecture in the United States. The first structure to inhabit the institution’s Hamilton Heights campus, it was modeled on a cathedral plan, its main entrance within a bell tower on St. Nicolas Terrace that connects two flanking academic wings and a central great hall for assemblies. Like many of its Gothic predecessors, unfortunately, the building also featured certain flaws that, over time, led to severe deterioration in the building’s fabric and the threat of catastrophic structural collapse.


    The team replaced some 70.000 pieces of deteriorated terra cotta (left)
    with the GFRC product (right), which could be used to mass-produce repetitive decorative elements.


    Post constructed the hall primarily from local schist—stone quarried during the excavation of the site—and terra cotta, which makes up the decorative elements. He used the terra cotta, however, structurally, as if it were just another piece of masonry. While terra cotta is very strong under compression, it has almost no tensile properties. As a result, when water infiltrated the walls and as the building swelled and contracted with the changing seasons (it was built without expansion joints), the terra cotta could not handle the stresses as well as the schist, and so it began to crack, break up, and come loose.

    By 1986, when architecture firm Elemental (then The Stein Partnership) answered an RFP to restore and reconstruct Shepard Hall’s envelope, pieces of terra cotta the size of grapefruits had been falling off the building with regularity for some ten years. Only one third of the original material remained. The rest had been filled in with bricks and stucco.

    From the outset, the architects decided that in replacing the terra cotta, they would employ a rain screen system with a light, thin-shell material fulfilling the decorative aspects and a separate material taking on the structural role. The material would also need to be mass-produced in order to meet the reconstruction schedule. Some 70,000 pieces of terra cotta needed replacing, 3,000 of which were completely unique sculptures—allegorical representations of academics, gargoyles and grotesques, and vegetative motifs. The team considered terra cotta, but the material was quickly ruled out since it would have taken decades to produce the needed pieces by the two manufacturers in the country who could do it at all. They settled on reinforced concrete (GFRC), basically a Portland cement with significant chemical variations. It uses only fine-grain aggregate, a small amount of polymer, glass, and carefully controlled sand.


    The thin-shell replicas were bolted back to a
    new masonry structure, with soft joints between
    the new masonry and original schist.


    A sprayed product about 3/4-inch thick, the GFRC offered the possibility of speeding up the fabrication of all of the repetitive pieces and keeping cost down. The sculptural elements took a little more time. Those that remained more or less intact were removed from the building, touched up, and used to form rubber-lined production molds. Those that had vanished were recreated from old photographs or extrapolated from fragments.

    The GFRC system offered a much higher level of precision than did the original process.

    To be as faithful as possible to the original, Elemental took care to introduce the imperfections characteristic of terra cotta, including tooling marks, irregularities on flat planes, and slight variations in the “white” color from piece to piece.

    The team filled in the structural gaps left by the terra cotta with traditional masonry structure, and bolted each thin-film replica back to the new masonry. This allowed the creation of soft joints between each piece and the existing schist. When taken across an entire elevation, these small, soft joints comprise a de facto expansion-joint system capable of accommodating significant building movement.

    In the course of replacing the terra cotta, the architects uncovered a number of other issues that needed attention. The bell tower was discovered to be in a state of structural failure. Steel supports in the existing masonry had corroded to the point of no longer being there. All that was holding it up was the terra cotta, some rubble stone, and a chicken-wire wrapper placed there to keep the gargoyles from falling onto students below. It was completely rebuilt, the cladding removed, a new precast, post-tensioned concrete structure inserted, and then the new thin-film elements attached. Elemental divided the project into ten contract packages, ordered according to severity of need, and tackled them when the budget became available. The firm is now finishing the ninth package. Although not among the gargoyles, the spirit of George B. Post might well sit smiling, twirling his Edwardian whiskers in hearty approval.

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4970

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    Building of the Day: 726 Ocean Avenue












    Name:
    Apartment Building
    Address: 726 Ocean Avenue, corner of Beverley Road
    Neighborhood: Flatbush
    Year Built: Somewhere between 1912-1918.
    Architectural Style: Beaux-Art Austrian Sezession
    Architect: attributing to Wortmann and Braun
    Other buildings by architect: Royal Castle Apartments, Clinton Avenue
    Landmarked: No


    The story: As the 20th century rolled along, developers rushed to build upper middle class buildings that would elevate the apartment experience, with large impressive buildings, and spacious apartments. Grand boulevards such as Ocean Avenue were perfect for these large apartment buildings.

    This is one of those over-the-top buildings that simply command the corner, and the attention of passers-by. I believe it’s by the firm of Wortmann and Braun, a Manhattan based partnership that specialized in the design of apartment buildings. Between 1910 and 1920, they are listed as the architects for a least a hundred buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. They also did warehouses and storage companies. Many of their Brooklyn buildings are in Flatbush, and the newer middle class communities of southern Brooklyn. Dietrich Wortmann was born in Germany, and was educated in Leipzig and at Columbia University. Nothing is known about his partner, H.H. Braun.

    One of their first buildings was the delightfully Viennese, Royal Castle Apartments in Clinton Hill, built in 1912. This building shares many details with the Royal Castle; so many that I have to believe Wortmann and Braun are responsible for both. Both are very much in the style of the Austrian version of Art Nouveau called the Sezessionist Movement.

    The lines of the building, the massing of shapes, and use of polychrome stone work are very similar. Here was also have some very fine Art Nouveau terra-cotta, used in the spandrels of the arched windows on the upper stories, very much defining the Sezession. Where the Royal Castle had large grotesque troll figures, this building has forbidding looking Medusas glaring down on visitors. Both buildings share the architect’s use of sculpted figures supporting elements of the building.

    This building features allegorical figures of masons or engineers, or perhaps just art and philosophy, with the owl of wisdom and the muse of sculpture on their shoulders. There is a lot of detail on this façade, making this, architecturally speaking, a wild and fun building. Interestingly, it was never subdivided, either. Reports of sales in the 1920’s state there were 30 apartments. Property Shark still shows the same. They are all probably quite large and well laid out. What a grand Ocean Avenue doyenne she still is, needing only some TLC to give her jewels some sparkle.

    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownston...3#gallery-5267

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    Took this in 2009:
    726 Ocean Avenue


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