Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lions and Turtles and Rams (Oh My!)

Almost everyone is familiar with Patience and Fortitude, the regal stone lions who watch over the New York Public Library. But a closer look throughout Bryant Park and the Library Terrace reveals more creatures than you may have seen at first glance.

Often overlooked are the bronze bases of two flagpoles at the north and south ends of the Library Terrace. The bases prominently feature four human figures, but peeking out from below each corner is a vicious looking little turtle.

Closer to the top of the bases, cattle skulls and whimsical owl heads mingle with decorative leaves and fruit garlands.

From park records, it seems that the bronze flagpole bases were placed on the Library Terrace around 1911 when the building was completed. Bryant Park Corporation’s archivist is currently researching the significance of the flagpole bases for future posts on the park’s rich history.

Around the corner in the library’s backyard, each entrance to Bryant Park is flanked by two torchieres topped with glass globe lights. The bronze bases of these fixtures are adorned with faces of rams with curly horns, who silently acknowledge park visitors and passersby.

Ten sets of torchieres surround the park and an eleventh set sits at the 42nd Street entrance to the library. The two original torchieres were placed at the library’s side entrance circa 1915. The rest of the fixtures were created and placed in the early 1990’s, when BPC removed one of the originals and sent it away to be reproduced.

Along the park’s many pathways you’ll encounter pigeons, small birds, and occasionally, a lion. The small feline heads on the park’s larger planters often go unnoticed in the warmer months when plants are in full bloom and cascade over the vessel’s edges.

Set into the urns that sit atop the balustrade wall surrounding Bryant Park’s lawn, these little guys have the best view for people watching, all year long.

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