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Terra Cotta

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Roving Rube

July 14, 2003

The Grosvenor, 39 Fifth Avenue












1922, Emery Roth; New York City Landmark.
New York Architectural Terra Cotta Company. Brick with brightly glazed terra-cotta ornament. Apartments.
(Source: "Terra-Cotta Skyline", by Susan Tunick).

The Rube also owns Susan Tunick's "Terra Cotta: Don't Take It For Granite", a book of three terra-cotta packed walking tours around Greenwich Village (including the above building), Murray Hill, and Times Square. It is lightweight, ring-bound so it lies open and flat to the page of the tour you are on and sized so it can fit in your back pocket. You can easily hold it in one hand. A typical tour book offers none of these advantages. The Rube feels all tour books should be offered in this format -- the stay-at-homes will want the book with all 18 tours, and the people who actually take the tours will want the 3-tour each, six volume ring-bound set.

Here is Don't Take It For Granite's entry on the Grosvenor (ha! the book can even be clipped to the Rube's monitor-side paper holder to facilitate typing!):

This 14-story apartment house [see right, middle of in context shot] was one of the first skyscraper structures to be built on lower Fifth Avenue, and it contributed to the rapid redevelopment of the surrounding area. A recent cleaning revealed the delicately detailed and colored terra-cotta ornament used on the facade. The placement of elaborate designs about the entrance, on the third floor, and on the top three three stories is not unusual in apartment houses of the 1920s [see 136 Waverly covered previously]. However, the range of color (yellow, green, tan, peach and blue), as well as the elaborate motifs, is exceptional. One particularly interesting device is the use of solid terra-cotta blocks in various glaze colors placed around the perimeter of the building's top three floors [2-jpg]. These simple units contrast with the complexity of the columns, capitals, and crests on the rest of the facade. With binoculars, one can see that all the third-story capitals have lion's heads while the two pilaster capitals on either end have baby's heads [3-jpg]. The rustic bricks, which have been specially fired to develop a pattern of red and black patches, add richness to the facade. (p. 21)


































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