Click for large version of 1-JPG

Terra Cotta

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Roving Rube

July 16, 2003

New York Public Library, Ottendorfer Branch, 135 Second Avenue












1883-84, William Schickel; New York City Landmark.
Brick with terra-cotta ornament. Library.
(Source: "Terra-Cotta Skyline", by Susan Tunick).

According to its 'NYC Landmark" plaque, this was the first free public library in Manhattan; the interior is almost unchanged since 1884 (so it'd be interesting to go inside and read a book there), and it is "important for its early use of molded terra cotta".

Both this building and its similar but larger neighbor (in context view) were given to given to the community by Anna and Oswald Ottendorfer, publishers of the "New Yorker Staats-Zeitung", a leading newspaper when the Lower East Side was known as Kleindeutschland (Little Germany). The Rube learned at Ellis Island that more people are of German descent in the U.S. than any other, because they were the first big wave of immigrants to flood the shores, driven here by revolution and famine in the 1850s (and earlier).

In 1-jpg, the figures have a nicely textured background, showing off the possibilities of terra cotta.

The first floor ornamentation shown in 3-jpg looks to the Rube like cast iron -- he detects faint rust stains; the molding seems less refined, and there is gunk stuck to it as if they painted it with dirty paint. Or maybe they didn't get all the old paint off before repainting. Anyway, you generally wouldn't paint terra cotta or stone.



































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