From afar, the Greenwich Locksmiths’ shop catches the eye, its bronze facade shining golden in wintry sunlight. A closer look reveals the interesting texture made from a framework of keys that coats the entire frontispiece and door. Thousands of these keys spiral around the front of the building, installed in 2011 by owner Phil Mortillaro after about two decades of indecision regarding how to spruce up the front of the shop.
A NY Times piece from 1991 describes initial renovation plans, costing $100,000 for a two-story renovation to a “Hyper Colonial” building. For one reason or another, these plans never stuck and the small triangular shop has remained the same for over 45 years. The keys that riddle the front also encompass the entire door and frame, as well as several knick-knacks inside the shop including chairs, clocks, and more.
Mortillaro, a master at opening cast-iron safes, is an Astoria-born NYC native and has practiced his craft his whole life. He never made it past the eighth grade and considers himself “a dinosaur,” one of the last true specialist locksmiths left in New York City.
Here are more close-up photos of the keys that decorate the front of Greenwich Locksmiths. If you notice, all the keys are cut; one can only imagine the thousands of doors, locks, and safes they all once opened. Head on over to 56 7th Avenue South to see the spectacle for yourself!