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As the train pulls up on the 23rd Street N/R station, have you noticed the mosaic hats that can appear to rest on the heads of those waiting for the trains? The artist Keith Godard created the mosaics in 2002 as a tribute to the hats that would have been blown off the heads of 19th and 20th century residents and visitors strolling on 23rd street by the Flatiron Building.

Says New York historian and tour guide Justin Ferate, “It’s said that, because of the great height of the Flatiron Building at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, the breezes raised women’s skirts, leading the local police officers to give a ’23 Skidoo’ to any oglers of the female ankle. Similarly, hats could also be potentially carried off by the winds.”

Entitled “Memories of 23rd St.,” the work of art in the subway by Keith Godard grew out of his personal fascination with the area when he lived in the Chelsea Hotel.

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As National Hat Day occurred yesterday, January 15th, Ferate made us aware of the quirky subway art. The hats are those of past residents or visitors to the area, specifically those of the famed Chelsea Hotel—the hats range from those of historian and activist W. E. B. Dubois to former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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23rd Street Subway Station Hats Mural (photo via Justin Ferate)

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“As a diversion, passengers waiting for the subway train might try to picture people on the opposite platform wearing hats they are beneath!” stated Godard. The hats are of varying distances above the ground—reflecting the heights of the individuals that would’ve worn them decades ago.

Get in touch with the author @spencercnyc

 

 

 

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