Built: 1926, March – William Zorach (Artist), Seth Thomas Clock Company, Thomaston, Connecticut (clock movement), and the Kunst Art Bronze Foundry (bronze casting)
Description: Referred to as the Silk Clock, this clock is easy to miss in midtown. It is perched above the entrance to the Schwarzenbach Building and is constructed of bronze. The bronze skin is skillfully wrought to show, among other things, Mulberry leaves around the face (a favorite food of the silkworm). Above the clock face and surround, there is a grouping of figures. The figure that looks like a wizard is Zoroaster, “the mastermind and doer of all things” and he is adorned with Zoroastrian symbols. At his feet, lies a cocoon and past that, a “slave” who is meant to represent the “primitive forces and instincts of man” where he appears as a blacksmith, hard at work with hammer on anvil.
When the clock strikes the hour (or near enough as the works are intricate,
mechanical, and stymied by the city’s filth), Zoroaster waves his wand, the blacksmith rises and hammers upon the cocoon, and the elegant “Queen of Silk” emerges from the cocoon holding a tulip until the hour has passed.
The symbology of this amazing clock, combined with the terra-cotta figural moth surrounds (designed by the clock artist’s wife-Marguerite Thompson Zorach) point to the importance of silk for this building’s original occupants. Beginning in 1888, New York City was a major center for the international Schwarzenbach silk house.
Following are the artist’s words in designing this clock for Schwarzenbach
“He [Schwarzenbach] was Swiss and had a Swiss’s love of wood carving and trick figures. He wanted a carved clock for the front of his building on Fourth Avenue with the figure of a man and a girl, ‘The Spirit of Silk,’ to appear on the hour. He had McKim, Mead and White design this clock for him and he hated it. Then he asked me to design it. It was a terrible ordeal. He drove me crazy fussing over these designs. That summer in Maine I had a model made full size in plywood and painted it to look like bronze, shipped it down, and hung it on his building. Schwarzenbach came down from his office, took one look, and said, ‘That’s not what I want,’ and disappeared. I felt utterly defeated. But I went ahead and carved the little figures in wood anyway. I took them to Noské’s office, and when Schwarzenbach came in he seemed rather pleased with them. He said, ‘I’ve got to leave for South America tomorrow; so go ahead with the figures and the clock.” from Art is My Life: the Autobiography of William Zorach (1967)
Sources: http://forgotten-ny.com/2008/12/manhattan-clock-sampler/, http://www.14to42.net/32street2.3.html, Art is My Life: the Autobiography of William Zorach (1967)
“A Historic Act of Vandalism”
Location: Upon Graywacke Knoll, Central Park, NY, NY (near the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Built: Nearly 3,500 years ago from Red Aswan granite.
Description: Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City was originally hewn out of a granite quarry in Aswan, Egypt around 1443 BC. A matching set of these obelisks was prepared for Pharaoh Thutmosis III’s Heb Sed and set in front of the Temple of the Sun, Lunu, Egypt (Place of Pillars). Each obelisk weighs about 220 tons, stands over 69 feet tall, with an 8-foot base and is set upon a 50-ton pedestal.
Around 13 BC, the pair of obelisks was moved to Cleopatra’s Caesareum in Alexandria, Egypt by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. The damaged corners of these obelisks were “held up” (shimmed) by four specially-cast bronze crabs inscribed in Greek and Roman text that name the architect and builder who re-erected the obelisks and that they were done so on behalf of Emperor Augustus.
In 1301, a huge earthquake rattled the area, resulting in the casing stones of the Great Pyramid of Khufu to crumble and one of the obelisks to collapse. Five centuries later, in 1801, the Egyptian government offered this fallen obelisk to England as a gesture of thanks for defeating Napolean’s Armée d’Orient during the Battle of the Nile. In 1877, England finally took ownership of their obelisk and it was raised in London in 1878.
On May 18th, 1879, Egypt officially gifted the other obelisk to the United States for recognition of increased trade between the two countries.
The United States wasted little time in arranging transport for their treasure from Egypt (financed by a generous donation from William H. Vanderbilt of $100,000).
After moving the obelisk along a seven-mile trip from the Caesareum site in Alexandria to the shipyard, the steamship SS Dessoug finally departed Alexandria Egypt with the obelisk onboard on July 12, 1880.
The Dessoug was heavily modified with a large hole cut into the starboard side of its bow. The obelisk was loaded through this, where it was rolled upon cannonballs to somewhat ease this arduous task.
Despite a few setbacks during the voyage, not the least of which was a broken propeller, the SS Dessoug landed at Staten Island on July 20th 1880 from Egypt.
From July 1880 through January 1881, the obelisk was slowly transported through the streets of New York City. In typical New York City fashion, the city’s occupants took the opportunity to throw a perpetual six-month long block party which followed the slow route of the obelisk.
The last section leading to Graywacke Knoll was accomplished along a trestle, upon which the obelisk was pushed by steam engine across the unfavorable terrain to its final destination.
On January 1881, the obelisk was set upon its base by way of an engineering structure built by Henry Honychurch Gorringe. This structure flipped the obelisk from horizontal to vertical, seating it upon its base in Central Park.
Sources: Livingston Masonic Library Collection, Wikipedia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
It’s that time of year, here is what our evenings are sounding like…
From the team that brought you NepTUNA [ link ]…
…Check out their latest Canstruction entitled “CAN on the Moon”!
- If you believed they put a CAN on the moon, CAN on the moon. If you believe there’s something FISHY, then here’s something for you.
- Who said tuna CAN only swim?
- That’s one small step for a CAN, one giant leap against Hunger.
This structure’s 4,200 cans will feed 1,544 New Yorkers.
If you are in NYC, show your support and check it out at 245 Park Avenue, NY, NY:
“A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there – even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity.”