The Owls of PS 110

Next time you’re heading over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, either driving or on the pedestrian walkway, be sure to check out the public school on the south side. PS 110 (the Florence Nightingale school) has one of my favorite school adornments in the city…

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…a roof covered in owls!

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They’re perched everywhere, from these five on the center arch…

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…to these four on the left side…

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…and a scattering of owls around the right corner.

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PS 110 is located on Cannon St, a narrow Manhattan side-street down as low and east as the Lower East Side can take you.

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What always amazes me about building adornments like these is that they are basically invisible from the street – you have to either be on the bridge or approaching the school from a distance to see them.

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Two owls can be seen at ground-level above the building entrances. This one is on Cannon St:

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This one is around the corner on Broome Street:

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I can’t tell if they’re different owl designs (note the beak and ears), or if it’s just the camera angle.

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Finally, here’s a view of the school as you approach from Delancey…

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…and the different view you get of the roof owls.

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Someday, I’m going to have to get permission to go up there and shoot up close. Anyone affiliated with the school reading?


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  1. Obviously, Moloch is alive and well. Not only to be found on the One Dollar bill and the Bohemian Grove…

    O! And that Watchmen movie also.


  2. It’s not necessarily a weird thing that you can’t see the owls from the street. Fake owls are a great deterrent to pigeons and other creatures that can dirty up an area of a city or facade of a building.

  3. Probably had nothing to do with deterring pigeons. Owls are the symbol of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, and so were often part of the decorative scheme of educational buildings into the early 20th century.

  4. I am shocked that people still relate to Cannon Street is it still there????????????

  5. The owls on PS 110 is a nod to Florence Nightingale’s pet owl, named Athena. You can see the real thing, properly preserved and stuffed, in the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. And yes, Ilene, a vestige of Cannon Street still separates the school and the parking garage between Delancey Street South and Broome Street.

    • My Mom lived in a tenement on the other side of Broome Street as a teenager (where the coops are now) and I have seen photos of her on the roof of her building taken in the mid-Thirties with the owls visible in the background.

      I attended P.S. 110 for fifth and sixth grades. As of 1958 there were owl decorations inside the building as well. They looked like they wanted to flee as soon as possible and I couldn’t blame them.