One of my favorite buildings in Morningside Heights is the Britannia at 527 West 110th Street.
The building, built in 1909, is divided into two wings and features two rows of fantastic gargoyles below the second floor balconies:
What makes this building particularly great is how low the gargoyles are to the ground. At only ten feet up or so, a passerby can actually appreciate their design (as opposed to those stationed tens or hundreds of feet up that seem to have been put in place only for the birds).
The gargoyles were said to be “symbolic of some form of the homely art of housekeeping,” according to a recent NY Times Streetscapes article, but nothing more is known to elaborate on this. First off is a man writing in a ledger, a very shifty look on his face:
Next is a man carrying a platter with a roast chicken:
Next is a man eating from a bowl:
Finally, there’s the cook, stirring a pot and taking a taste:
So money, ingredients, preparation, and consumption? The building features other interesting design elements as well…
Next to the entrance, these two figures seem to either be yawning or laughing at approaching visitors (either way, I think we can agree they’re not very impressed).
An interesting note: the front courtyard is unusually large for New York, and was once used by motorists to turn around in.
If you go to the rear of the building on 111th Street, you’ll find an interesting row of reliefs…
…which appear to show builders and the architect. I love how the builder seems to be working on the building’s bricks. The relief on the right is unique in that it shows the date of the building’s construction).
The rear of the building has a courtyard as well…
…featuring a line of beautiful stained-glass windows with a medieval motif (one wonders if that second row was once all windows, having been replaced with an elevator shaft or something).
The designers described the building as “perhaps the most homelike apartment house in New York,” and a review by an architectural magazine compared it to “the old English house.” Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area (and swing around the corner to Koronet’s on Broadway between 110th & 111th for the biggest slice of pizza available in NYC).
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