In the ever-changing city of New York, old buildings are constantly torn down to make room for newer projects. But thankfully, not all the beautiful features of these lost buildings are gone for good.
Some of the luckier statues, sculptures, and ornamental features wound up at the Steinberg Sculpture Garden at the Brooklyn Museum. Collected and curated by the great New York historian and former photography curator Barbara Head Millstein, all of these gorgeously carved works of art were salvaged from demolished buildings.
Standing among the sculptures is like looking at fragments of the city’s architectural past. More than 40 pieces, including urns, keystones, columns, and sculptures, fill the garden. Most of them were created during the late 1800s and early 1900s by anonymous stonemasons.
The pieces demonstrate a variety of styles, motifs, and materials including marble, brownstone, cast-iron, and terracotta. Some of the pieces were from buildings designed by famed architects like Louis Sullivan; McKim, Mead & White; Irwin S. Chanin; and Gutzon Borglum.
A particular highlight is a sculpture that once stood near one of the clocks outside the original Penn Station. The intricately carved work, which depicts the hooded figure of Night clutching poppies, was rescued from a landfill in New Jersey. You can also find majestic Pegasus statues that once guarded the entrance to a Coney Island fire station, an early 20th-century miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty, and stoic Atlas-inspired statues that previously stood outside a wealthy paper manufacturer’s home. Look down, and you’ll also notice moss-covered figures scattered about the ground.
Know Before You Go
The Sculpture Garden is located within the Brooklyn Museum and is free with museum admission. Closed Monday and Tuesday.