The Church Missions House — from charity to photography

Even in the diverse landscape of Manhattan’s architecture, the intricate limestone building facing Park Ave at 22nd street is striking. It’s striking because it’s unusual, it’s unusual because of its distinctive architectural style. If it looks like it was inspired by the medieval guildhalls of Amsterdam and Haarlem, it’s because it was! Influenced by the 17th-century…

Statue of Liberty – what was the Lady doing in the park?

The journey of Lady Liberty from its native France to the teeming shores of Manhattan was long and arduous, and her first appearance here was limited to just one body part: her torch-holding arm. The Statue’s creator, Auguste Bartholdi, started working on the colossus in 1876 in Paris. The arm holding the touch was complete…

New York Life — a skyscraper with a golden crown

The 40-story tower crowned by the 6-story shining golden roof in the shape of an octagonal pyramid on the northeast corner of Madison Park belongs to New York Life Insurance Company. The crown was originally covered by cooper-and-gold leaf, which eventually eroded and was replaced with gold-colored tile. The effect is fantastic — the golden…

The General Worth Monument—a gravesite in the middle of Broadway

The small pedestrian island bordered by 25th Street, Broadway, and 5th Avenue—where people regularly enjoy views of the Flatiron while reading, talking, sunbathing, or having a light snack—is actually a burial ground. The body of General Worth, hero of the Mexican War of 1846-1848, rests in peace under the obelisk. Most find their final resting…

Chester Arthur: the statue that kept losing its glasses

Sculptor: George Edwin BissellArchitect: James Brown LordDedicated: 1899 When serving as the 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur exceeded all expectations. This was due in large part to the fact that nobody expected that much . . . One of the least-remembered presidents, he was known during his lifetime to be an exceptional…

William H. Seward Monument—it’s all about proportion

William H. Seward was a towering figure in 19th-century politics. Serving at different times as a senator, New York governor, and secretary of state (under Abraham Lincoln), he is credited with blocking the European recognition of the Confederacy as well as negotiating the anti-slave trade treaty with Great Britain, among other notable achievements. He was…

Rocking Chair Riots of 1901 in Madison Square Park

New York City has seen its fair share of civil unrest. One of them, however unlikely, was caused by rocking chairs and took place in Madison Square Park. The upscale Madison Square Park neighborhood, located in front of the posh Fifth Avenue Hotel, teamed with elegantly dressed and well heeled elites. One day in 1901,…

Victory Arch – the Last Temporary Triumphal Arch in Madison Square

The Victory Arch was located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway between 24th and 25th streets and stood there from 1918 to 1920. Even though World War I did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, the combat had stopped on November 11, 1918, when the…

Dewey Arch – a Temporary Triumph in Madison Square

The Dewey Arch was a triumphal arch that stood from 1899 to 1900 on the intersection of Broadway and 5th Avenue at 24th Street. The Arch was erected to celebrate Commodore George Dewey’s stunning naval victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. This particular military achievement was of great importance…

MetLife Tower – a Piece of Venice in New York

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building Architect: Pierre LeBrun of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons Date: 1909 Height: 700′ Floors: 50 Where in the world does the prosaic practicality of an insurance company come in the shape of a Venetian campanile? In New York City, right around Madison Square Park! The MetLife Building, and subsequently its tower, was…

The Flatiron – what’s in the name?

Architect Daniel H. Burnham Date 1902 What better way to advertise a successful company than to have a striking building bear its name! The Fuller Company, one of the largest construction companies in the United States (aka the world), erected a highly unusual building to house its headquarters that was to be called the Fuller…