Treasures on the East 25th Street Courthouse

One of my favorite buildings in Manhattan is the marble courthouse on 25th & Madison, home to the Appellate Division of the NY State Supreme Court. It’s a charmingly compact building at only three stories high, completely dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers (I snagged this picture from Flickr user IneT, as the building was hidden in shadows when I shot it). Built in 1900, it’s covered by some really interesting statuary and artistic flourishes.

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York

Two main statues sit in front, one representing Wisdom, the other (below), Force.

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The placard by his feet reads: “We must not use force till just laws are defied.”

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I really love this statue because, if you look at his left hand…

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…You’ll see that Force is holding back some sort of winged lion, which I can only assume is itching to go berserk raining justice down on various New York law breakers. Very cool touch, and it’s a shame the fingers were broken off at some point.

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The other side, with a better view of the creature Force is restraining (thanks for the pic, Wally G!).

NYC: New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division - Force

Around the corner, you’ll find what I consider to be the most moving Holocaust memorial in the city.  With the inscription “Indifference to injustice is the gate to hell” …

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..the sculpture simply depicts a raised map of the Auschwitz I concentration camp, with labels identifying a torture chamber, the execution wall, the gas chamber, the crematorium, and the commandant’s house. It find it to be utterly chilling in its simplicity.

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Rising up from the sculpture is this column, covered in smoke and flames, and clearly reminiscent of a smokestack.  A very appropriate addition to the building.

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If you’re going to spend 45 minutes waiting in line at nearby Shake Shack (tourist!), you might as well take 5 to check out all the gems covering this building.


PS – Interesting tidbit: many of the building’s statues depict various iconic philosophers and religious figures like Plato and Moses. Originally, the building included a statue of Mohammed. However, this statue was removed in 1950 at the request of various Muslim groups, as any depiction of the Prophet is forbidden. Curious where the statue originally stood…

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  1. Scroll down to the fifth paragraph of this article for more info on where the statue was and how it came down. (No comment on the opinions expressed at the end, but the content is informative.)

  2. Your answer as to where Mohammed stood is answered at, complete with pics of the building before the statue came down.

  3. @Nathan lol GMTA 🙂

  4. I love the expression on “Force”!

    As for his hand … I’ll just pretend that he’s rockin’ a fingerless glove 😉

  5. Some of the statuary looks directly into the trade floor of Credit Suisse at 11 Madison. They seemed to disapprove.

  6. I like the fact that Mr. Force is showing restraint by keeping that lion back… the world needs more o that…

  7. You know, I’d passed that beautiful courthouse a hundred times before I ever noticed the Holocaust memorial. I agree; it’s the best ever.

    That part of town has some staggeringly beautiful buildings. I love the old Met Life building (Scout, you should try to get some shots of the original lobby; they wouldn’t let me take photos, but you’re OFFICIAL). And there are some stunning buildings on the east side of Park Avenue around 20th through 22nd Streets.

    It’s not a neighborhood that’s on a lot of walking tours, necessarily, but it’s one of my favorites.

    There’s an old Masonic building, I think, on 20th between Park and Madison, then all the gorgeous buildings on Gramercy Park (I particularly like the building at the SE corner).

    Thanks for highlighting this terrific stuff!

  8. I used to work a block away and also failed to notice he Holocaust memorial. I guess I was always distracted by the beautiful statues. I’ll have to get back up there just to check it out. Thanks for the post.

  9. Great neighborhood – I lived right down the block in the late 70s. Since you only got Mr. Force, here’s a shot of Mr. Wisdom, taken at night by street lighting.

  10. As a Muslim, I’m kind of sad the statue of Mohammed got taken away. It was surely put there with good intentions, and I have no doubt that the Prophet Mohammed, who strove for justice and equality, would appreciate his inclusion there.

  11. Really great article but tourist for going to Shake Shack?! Preposterous!

  12. To the user “F” above, I am actually disheartened at the removal of the statue as well, however, I am also aware of the intentions behind the request for removal, and I find that this was a perfect example of how things SHOULD work in the world. A simple, good natured request, despite the best of intentions on the sculptor’s behalf, and the statue is brought down after careful reasoning.

    Yes, it’s sad to see it go, but it’s also nice to see that at some point in the world’s history, things were handle rationally.

  13. I just passed this today. I also think it’s a hidden gem and it’s awesome. I missed the holocaust memorial and the smoke stack. But I think I should also point out that the other statue ‘Wisdom’ is also pretty cool