Old New York In Photos #118 – Herald Square At Night

Herald Square At Night – 1912

This beautiful night scene of Herald Square was taken in 1912. The Herald Building between 35th & 36th Street and Broadway and Sixth Avenue is brilliantly illuminated as the presses work to get the next morning’s paper out.

Lining the roof of the McKim, Mead & White designed Herald Building are 20 gilt owl sculptures. Electricity would light up the owl’s green eyes. The two illegible lighted discs in the front of the building are a clock and wind dial.

Bennett Monument drawing sculptor Andrew O'Connor viaNY Times 1918Herald owner James Gordon Bennett Jr., was obsessed with owls. They were everywhere in his office and homes, owls of all different sizes made of stone, wood, iron and bronze. Bennett’s Newport, RI  mansion, “Stone Villa” directly across from The Casino, had large bronze owls mounted on pillars at each end of a half moon driveway. The owls were kept lighted during tennis week in August and would wink at passerby.

There were even plans drawn up by architect Stanford White for a 200 foot tall owl mausoleum for Bennett to be built in Washington Heights. When Bennett Jr. died in 1918 there were calls to rename Herald Square, Bennett Square. The renaming never came to pass and the giant owl tomb was never built due to White’s 1906 murder.

To the right of the Herald Building is the Sixth Avenue El. To the left is Broadway and in the distance is the Hotel Normandie. Atop the hotel is an illuminated advertisement which says “Leaders of the World.”

As we previously wrote, the sign debuted in 1910 and was one of the largest moving illuminated advertising signs in the world. The sign showed a Roman chariot race with three chariots appearing to race one another speeding around an arena. The sign was damaged in a windstorm in 1912 and then taken down.

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