Friday, June 7, 2013

Focusing on Life :: Typography

This week's Focusing on Life challenge was to look for typography and blog about whether it drew you in, inspired you or perhaps spoke to you. Hmm, this one really had me thinking.

Each day as I commute to my job, I walk through Grand Central Station. Recently I've noticed the sign for the Graybar Building. Ornate and interesting. I must have walked by it hundreds of times. Always in a rush, never paying any attention. But in the last few weeks I kept thinking, I need to look up what 'Graybar' means. So this week, I did. In fact, I took a lunch hour to walk over to the building and snap some pictures. Both inside the lobby, and from across the street.

The Graybar Building sits next to Grand Central Station. I mean literally, right next to it. There are entrances in the station to the building lobby. Across the street is the Chrysler building. I think with all these other iconic locations, the Graybar Building gets lost. I had never heard of it, yet I walk by it every day. The Building was the first office building in the immediate Grand Central Terminal area of the city. Wow. There are so many today, but then this building dates back to early 1900s. 

It was named after its original tenants Elisha Gray and Enos Barton. It has that same classic Art Deco style that I love in the old buildings of New York, complete with an old mail slot. It isn't in use (note the "closed" on the box). I love all the details in the lobby. They have a Moorish feel to them. The floor has tiles like the edges of a rug, look up and you see beautiful rich reds in the ceiling with lantern-like light fixtures. Lots of circles adorn the lobby. No detail seemingly forgotten.

The most interesting part of the building is just outside the front door. The canopy, above the entrance, is held up by 3 large metal rods resembling the ropes (or mooring lines) off a ship. You'll notice cones on the rods which are 'rat guards' that keep rats from climbing on ship when in port. Just below the cones you see that there are 3 cast metal rats. Some say that this is the first nod to New York City being called the 'rat race.' If you look closely, where the cable (or 'hawser') reaches the building there are eight rat heads. (You might need to click on the link as I couldn't quite capture them with my little iphone). So the question is ... are we the people, represented by rats, trying to get in? Or are we already inside trying to get out? The conundrum of New York City.

The most common explanation for the 'rat' architecture is that it represents the shipping business that defined the historical roots of the Graybar company.

Also, at the time of the building's construction the city was much more of a waterfront, or port city. I can honestly say I never noticed the rats. But standing there and looking up; sure enough ... they are metal rats! 

There are figures on the building facade. They are bas-relief panels and have an Assyrian look to them. I could't find any explanation or background on what these panels had to do with the building, but I like them. 

The Graybar Building is certainly one of the lesser known skyscrapers in the city. I had no idea about it's background, or that it is registered as a Landmark. But I quickly found out as I drifted through the lobby taking pictures on my paisley covered iphone. As I was snapping away one of the security guards shouted at me to stop. I didn't realize that it was threatening to take pictures of clocks. But apparently anything deemed a Landmark is off limits. Good thing I got my snaps in before he chased me out!

39 comments:

BeadedTail said...

That was so interesting and I love the story on the rats! How tall is that building? I've been told to quick taking photos in bead stores but didn't realize buildings had that rule too! Okay, I admit, I'm jealous that you walk through Grand Central Station on your commute!

LoriF said...

I am so enjoying your NYC posts! I love NYC and hope to be back soon...and I'll have to have a second look at some of these buildings you've introduced. Very cool!

Marlene Cupo said...

Cynthia, your posts are like a travel brochure through this great land. Thanks again, for another fantastic tour!

LisaS said...

Beautiful photos! -And thank you for sharing all the interesting background on the Graybar Building. Would love to take a trip out that way soon.

;)

Patty Woodland said...

Oh no - I can read the headline now; photo blogger arrested in possible plot to explain meaning of Graybar to readers.

Thanks for the education.

Adrienne said...

I love what you post about New York, such a different view point from what we typically see in the media. The whole thing with the rats is amazing, I wonder how many people pass by that every day and never notice....

Beti Horvath said...

I love all the symbolism you uncovered in this building, and especially the logo. That simple "bar" across the word Graybar!

Islandgirl said...

Actually the thing that popped out to me is the mail slot... I love the old mail slots in buildings... gorgeous worn brass!

I've been told off for photgraphing things in NYC too!

Diana Taylor said...

Such an interesting blog post - and what a beautiful building, the tiles and mosaic work are stunning. What a little gem to find - I am going to make a conscious effort to look at my local surrounding more from now on. Thanks for sharing.

Mary K. McGraw said...

I love the first picture showing the name of the building. How fitting for this week's challenge. Also enjoyed reading about your research about the building.

Claire said...

I learn so much from your posts - thank you! Really great photos!
Have a wonderful week :)

Memories for Life said...

How cool to learn the history of the building. All of the little pieces make sense when you know their story. I love the round star-shaped piece.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

That was really interesting! And the photos are great. I love learning about places around the world, particularly about old buildings and their history.

Becky Pancake said...

Beautiful font on that sign Cynthia. Thanx for the history lesson too. I think that Sally has helped us all to see things in our daily lives better.

Duni said...

I love all sorts of typography :) Interesting story on that Graybar building and the rats! Very cool!

A Polymer Penchant said...

Oh my so much beauty, love that deco styling and i imagine i would run into things there spending all my time looking up. But the rats - that's hilarious! I always imagine the workers, "so you want to stick some rats on the front here ?!?!?" I'm so glad you spent your lunch breaking the law

glassbead, isinglass design said...

Wait, what? You can't take pictures? Those are wonderful! The rats are something else.

Niky Sayers said...

I completly LOVE this post, the pics are great and the information is fantastic thanks so much for taking the time to share, those rats are fab!

Niky Sayers said...

I completly LOVE this post, the pics are great and the information is fantastic thanks so much for taking the time to share, those rats are fab!

thewovenspoke said...

Love your posts each time, beautiful photos of an awesome building.

Magic Love Crow said...

Fantastic building!! Love the photos! The metal rats are cute ;o) LOL!

Donna said...

Most excellent! I've never been to GCS, but I'd sure love to. Until then, I'll live vicariously thru you!

Cindy said...

Oh wow, I didn't know you had such an interesting commute daily! You really are in the midst of all kinds of hustle and bustle in the morning. And what a great place to look for interesting typography - Grand Central Station and neighboring buildings! I love looking at the details in old buildings so this post was really a treat! And what a beautiful, old mail slot. I one that was similar in an old hotel in downtown Richmond earlier in the year. Not something I see everyday, that's for sure.

Gloria said...

Not sure, but the bas relief figures represent trading/business of communication, light, speed products; the types of things Graybar sells and works with.

Aren't those rats something- I saw them on a quick trip. There is so much to see on these buildings.

When I first looked at the ceiling in your photo, I thought of the influence of William Morris and Clarice Cliff, especially in the colors.

I guess the no picture taking is due to 9/11. At least you got out with your iphone pictures. TFS ♥

street art _life style_ fashion and co. said...

Great blog I love to read your articles :)

Patti Van said...

When I was a child-age 8-11- I lived in Old Bridge, New Jersey and my father commuted to New York. Vpnever once stepped foot in the City, much less the State of New York. Flash forward 35 years. some friends and I spent a whirlwind 4 days and 3 nights in the City. I was aweestruck from the moment I got off the train. One can see a million pictures of New York City-or movies for that matter- but the magnitude of the structures cannot be seen in pictures. it can only be "felt" firsthand. I could spend days at each unique building to take in the history! Thank you for this post-it brought back wonderful memories of those 4 days of looking beyond the limestone and concrete that surrounded me!

Courtney said...

I love your posts! I always learn something. Thank you! The Graybar font is wonderful!!

Tamara said...

Your pictures and story is so fascinating. I love NYC and you captured the history of this old building so well.

Emakaye said...

How interesting! Thanks for the education. So many interesting pieces of architecture there. I can see how passing through Grand Central everyday you could become complacent to it. I'm glad you had a moment to actually stop and look at all the beauty there. And capture photos before you were stopped. :)
~Ema
http://www.emakdesigns.com/blog

My Life Under the Bus said...

Well I wouldn't have noticed the rats unless you pointed them out! There was a Sunday morning show a few weeks ago featuring 2 architect's ( a married couple ) who are doing "New Old Architecture" and just finished a building in Manhattan that was to die for!

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Another amazing building! It is amazing how much we "miss" as we hurry by in our daily doings.

Alice said...

Such an interesting building with wonderful details. It's a shame that it gets dwarfed by the othe buildings. Thanks so much for sharing!

Janet Bocciardi said...

Terrific photos, Cynthia! Love the rat posts... really I think that's so cool.

Caron Michelle said...

NYC is on my hit list of travels and your blog is a fabulous bookmark of all the wonderful places I want to explore in this marvelous city. I find it fascinating you can't take pictures - why is it illegal? You can photograph almost everything here!

Mama Zen said...

That story about the rats is so cool!

Miss Val's Creations said...

What cool elements on this building! The rat guards add a touch of amusement! I had no idea landmarks where illegal to photograph too. Luckily you did not get in trouble. At least you were able to get in some cool photos!

Marcela Gmd said...

Wonderful construction, many details ... Arabic influence is seen in the mosaics. How much beautiful works, in NY! I love the Chrysler Building!!
Have a good week, dear! and my g+!!!:)))

Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

Marcela Gmd said...

Wonderful construction, many details ... Arabic influence is seen in the mosaics. How much beautiful works, in NY! I love the Chrysler Building!!
Have a good week, dear! and my g+!!!:)))

Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

Marcela Gmd said...

Wonderful construction, many details ... Arabic influence is seen in the mosaics. How much beautiful works, in NY! I love the Chrysler Building!!
Have a good week, dear! and my g+!!!:)))

Besos, desde España, Marcela♥

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