7. The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street
In English folklore, Puck is the name that has been given to demons, mischievous fairies, and half-faun, half-human creatures through the ages. The most famous iteration of this mythological character is found in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare describes his Puck as a “shrewd and knavish sprite.” The childlike and mishcievous nature of Puck made him a perfect mascot for Puck Magazine, a 19th century humor magazine that built its headquarters at 295 Lafayette St.
Puck Magazine was created by Austrian immigrant Joseph Keppler, who first published a German version of the magazine in St. Louis. With aspirations of reaching a larger audience, Keppler moved to New York in 1876 and launched an English version a year later. Puck was the first magazine to sell illustrated advertisements and have full pages of color. The colorful and controversial political cartoons it published led to its meteoric rise in popularity and influence over following years. By 1886, Puck had outgrown its William Street office and moved into a new Romanesque Revival-styled building at the intersection of Houston and Mulberry in New York’s new publishing district. The building, which took on the name of the publication, was designed by Albert Wagner, a German architect, in a manner known as Rundbogenstil, or “round-arch style.” The Public Theater, originally the Astor Library, is another example of this style.
The building features two gilded statues of Puck based on drawings by Keppler that were featured on the magazine’s masthead. It is believed that German immigrant sculptor Henry Baerer made the sculptures based on a zinc model created by Caspar Buberl. Baerer is known for his bust of Beethoven in Central Park, and Buberl created many monuments throughout the country including a statue of Robert Fulton in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
The building has had many tenants throughout the years including Spy Magazine, and Billy Joel, who rented space n the building to work on his album “The Bridge.” Today, the Puck building is inhabited by NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the wealthy owners and renters of the Puck Penthouses.