Gargoyles Revisited

Once you start looking up, you find more and more gargoyles perched above city streets. My neighborhood in New York is prime gargoyle hunting territory. The 19th century/early 20th century industrial loft buildings in the Union Square, SoHo and Chelsea neighborhoods are rich with decorations and, often enough, gargoyles.

Of course not all the buildings in the area are leftovers from that era. There are a good number of ‘post-war’ (after WWII) apartment buildings with brick faces, low/standard ceiling heights, mini balconies and a dearth of stone monsters.

As I was looking up, up, up at a line of lion’s heads atop winged bodies on Union Square, I started to speculate about the gargoyles that once lurked on buildings that were replaced in the city’s various building booms — particularly the post-war housing when new and bright, replaced the sleek and spectacular deco of the Chrysler Building.

Nah, I’m not complaining about change. You can’t live in New York and expect a static environment. No, I was focusing on the lost gargoyles. Where did they go? I know there’s a market for ‘architectural sculptures’ so logically I’ll assume that the gargoyles that once looked down on my street are in a garden in Brooklyn keeping company with ceramic frogs and gnomes. But if you extrapolate the legends of the gargoyles of Notre Dame and invite the idea that they fly around at night, then you have a different set of problems to consider.

Did the lion-headed winged creatures on Union Square West hold a funeral for the beasts that lost their heads when an old building was imploded to make way for a new one? What a sight — a gathering of monsters mourning the end of their fellow creatures of the night.

Or did the griffins, dragons and gorgons simply move? Under cover of night, flying to a new location where they settled down as stone fixtures on a neighboring building? That would account for some of the odd decorative choices in my neighborhood so… Look up. Pigeon poop is not the only danger in the sky.


  1. I LOVE gargoyles! I had no idea there were any in New York but then NYC was the mecca of the migrant for a very long time so I guess I really should not be surprised.

    The only gargoyles I’ve seen up close and personal were the ones on the Notre Dame. Huge beasts really, crouched there on the edge of the roof spewing water on the ground below. “Hah hah! I spit on yewe..” Um…that’s meant to be a french accent not a typo…

    Do the NYC immigrants serve a plumbing function too or were they always more decorative? Hmm…I wonder if there’s a kind of class system amongst gargoyles – the old money based on function, the nouveau riche being simply decorative. Or perhaps the lion headed ones just naturally assume pride [lol sorry] of place…

    Please, please put gargoyles on your list of monsters ‘to do’ 😀

    • Candy

      Gargoyles are definitely on the to-do list! The more I look, the more I see. They are irresistible!
      (With and without the French accents.)