Hunting Gargoyles at City College

Near Harlem in Manhattan, in a neighborhood called Manhattanville, is the City College of New York. Although City College has roots going back to the 1840s, the college didn’t move to the Manhattanville campus until 1907. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the original campus buildings though – architect George Browne Post designed them in the neo-Gothic or Collegiate Gothic style, making the campus feel much older than it actually is.

What make City College’s architecture fun are the approximately 600 grotesques. (I know – I titled this post “Hunting Gargoyles,” but as I’ve done further research I’ve learned that gargoyles are decorative waterspouts, while grotesques refer to the broader category of gothic creatures and humans.) Yesterday was such a sunny spring day that I thought it was a perfect day to hunt gargoyles – and grotesques!

Let me take you on a tour:

Want to hunt gargoyles and grotesques for yourself? Take the 1 Train uptown to the 137th Street – City College stop. It’s just a short walk from the station to the campus entrance.

30 thoughts on “Hunting Gargoyles at City College

  1. Like Anabel, I particularly like the reading ones, especially the first one which I’d like to see as an aging woman. But I also like the lollers, and the ones hanging perilously gripping various bits of the architecture. You must have had great fun tracking them down – and I suspect there might be a few more grotesque-hunts calling to get your count up to 600. Thanks for the distinction between a gargoyle and a grotesque – I had the right nomenclature in Gdańsk! Do you know the name(s) of the sculptor(s)? They (or he) must’ve had fun too.

    1. I wasn’t able to determine from my research who the artists were, although I do know that they are actually terra cotta. Over time the terra cotta figures and trim deteriorated, and then there was a major restoration project completed since 2000. Many of the figures had to be completely recast at that time.

  2. very nice combination of grotesques, & grotesques-in-context — also how delightful to learn the distinction between ‘gargoyle’ (the word that I had thought all-encompassing) & ‘grotesque’ — bonus!

    1. Thanks, Tatyana. I’m always looking for something that we normally wouldn’t pay attention to, whether it’s art, architecture, or something else. With a city like NYC, it’s impossible to run out of new things to discover.

  3. First of all , thanks for following my blog posts and liking them . I really appreciate it when fellow bloggers enjoy my blog posts . As I live in Queens , I rarely get down to City College . But looking at the pictures of the gargoyles , I will definitely have to get to that section of the city. Beautiful pictures .

    1. Thank you. I also live in Queens – but I try to travel all over the place to check out different parts on the city. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I started the blog, so I won’t be tempted to do the same thing every time. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog!

  4. YEA!!!! You’re back!!! Gosh I have missed your posts something fierce but this was worth waiting for! I LOVE the reading ones the best but they are all fantastic!!! Aren’t they fun to spot!!! Thanks for brightening up my today!

    1. I’ve got a bunch of stuff to post now, so there should be more coming soon! I walked over 20 miles and took about 800 photos in the past 3 days. I thought this one was a good reward for those of you who have been waiting though. So glad you enjoyed them!

  5. There’s a shopping centre near where I grew up that is built in mock Tudor style. The owner is a bit of a maverick and it is covered in gargoyles that are of real people that he doesn’t like! They’re quite similar in style to these.

  6. There are a surprising number of these around, Susan, and I really love your selection. I’ve seen many in Portugal but seldom with this much character. 🙂

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