Herald Square is one of the busiest intersections in the city.
Located in between Penn Station and the Empire State Building, intersected by Broadway and dominated by Macy’s flagship department store, the Square receives tens of thousands of visitors everyday.
In the middle of the square is a monument which marks the location of what was once the city’s largest newspaper, the New York Herald. On top of the monument, usually unnoticed by the passersby below, are two bronze owls whose eyes light up a spooky glowing green, off and on, all through the night.
The Herald ran from 1835 until 1924 under the ownership of James Gordon Bennett and was America’s highest circulating paper. Bennett was obsessed with owls, and New York’s premier architect and womanizing voluptuary, Stanford White, built the Herald building complete with 26 owls atop the roof, each with glowing electric green eyes.
When the building was demolished in 1940, the statue of Minerva, the clock, and some of the owls were rescued from the building and incorporated into the monument. The door to the clock tower also has an owl motif and the French phrase, “La nuite porte conseil” (let’s sleep on it). Bennett was rumored to have been involved with the secret society of the Bohemian Club, which venerated owls. Bennett incorporated owls onto the original masthead of the Herald and kept live ones in his office. He had plans made for a giant owl mausoleum to be made for himself by Stanford White. The tomb was to stand uptown in Washington Heights and be 200 feet high: an enormous owl of 125 feet perched atop a 75 foot pedestal, in which would hang his sarcophagus.
White was murdered a few blocks away in 1906, on the rooftop of the old Madison Square Garden by the husband of his mistress, Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit. Bennett never got his giant owl burial, but the owls which stood as sentinels over his newspaper building still watch over visitors to Herald Square, the green eyes glowing tonight as they did over 100 years ago.
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