We’d like to invite you to look up at the eerie creatures that live year round on the buildings of New York City. Here is our roundup of the creepiest grotesques. Many of these are featured on the website Gargoyles of New York, though it should be noted that gargoyles are technically water spouts while grotesques purely are decorative.
10. 214 West 29th Street
This strange character examining a beaver pelt stands as testament to the glory days of the Garment District’s fur industry. The building at 214 West 29th Street was built in the 1920s for showrooms, offices, and factories, and various garment businesses are still based there today.
9. Frederick Henry Cossitt Dormitory, West Side YMCA
This is one of the strange figures that line the backside of the West Side YMCA on West 63rd Street, which until 1988 served as a dormitory for students attending the McBurney School, a preparatory institution that inspired the plot of J.D. Salinger’s masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye.
8. 716 Broadway
The heads of staring, goat-horned demons line the windows of 716 Broadway, the building that up until recently housed the bookstore Shakespeare & Company.
7. 20 Exchange Place
The company that commissioned these ghoulish figures used to be called the City Bank Farmers Trust, known today as Citibank. The New York Times wrote that in 1931, a magazine related to the stone business remarked that the figures represented the “ghosts of finance.” Citibank had its offices here until 1956; now the building is used for luxury rentals.
6. Wilshire Plaza
This pre-war building at 134 West 58th Street provides residences and offices to everyday New Yorkers. So why the terrifying griffin-human gargoyle duo?
5. The Britannia
Why is the character above holding a cooked chicken in his lap? In 1909, architecture firm Waid & Willauer adorned this apartment building with figures meant to evoke a sense of a “home.” We’re not sure if the figure is comforting, but it sure is creepy.
4. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
In 1891, a three-year competition resulted in the success of an eclectic design for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine that combined Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic styles of architecture. Perhaps that explains the liberties taken with the whimsical statues that dress the cathedral’s exterior. Still, the building is still unfinished, built in the true Gothic method.
3. Trinity & United States Realty Buildings
Sometimes, the most harrowing grotesques are the ones that you don’t see at first. These two twin skyscrapers downtown on Broadway, built in a Gothic style to compliment Trinity Church, are covered in grotesques that trick the eye.
2. 526 7th Avenue
This creeper can be seen lurking above the Midtown crowds at the doorway of 526 7th Avenue, a commercial space.
1. P.S. 40/The Salk School of Science
This sculpture’s anatomical view is fitting, because it marks the building of a junior high school focused on the sciences. We just wish we knew what animal it was supposed to represent!
Know of any macabre gems that we missed? Get in touch with Anna Brown via her Twitter handle @brooklynbonanza!